You know exercise is good for your body, but did you know that there is evidence to suggest that exercise can help slow the normal declines in brain function that happens with age? Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense activity a week to keep their hearts healthy, but how much exercise does your brain need?
In a new study published in the journal, Neurology: Clinical Practice, researchers set out to determine the answer to this question. Based on data that included over 11,000 older people, it was found that those who exercised for roughly 52 hours over a period of six months showed the biggest improvements in various thinking and speed tests. On average, it worked out to about one hour three times per week. Interestingly, the findings applied to those with and without mild cognitive impairment of dementia.
The biggest surprise was that the only strong correlation between exercise and brain function occurred when they looked at the overall time people spent exercising. There was no association between improvements in thinking and the frequency, intensity or even length of time people exercised. Meaning, for brain health, the overall and cumulative effect of exercise is most important. Exercise affects the brain in a variety of ways, from preserving the nerve network that declines with age, to boosting the functions of neurons and even improving blood flow to brain cells.
The current study included a variety of exercise including aerobic, weight training and mind-body activities like yoga. Researchers concluded that the type of exercise is less important than the overall time spent exercising. So, lace up your walking shoes or join your local gym and aim for one hour of exercise at least three times per week. Your brain will thank you!