December 14, 2012
Seniors Can Boost Their Brains Through Aerobic Exercise
Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
It is well known that exercise can benefit the body, and now, researchers say that aerobic exercise could enhance certain areas of cognitive ability as well.The review, conducted by researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand, was recently published in the online edition of the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.
“Research suggests that regular aerobic exercise has the potential to improve executive functioning, even in healthy populations. The purpose of this review is to elucidate which components of executive functioning benefit from such exercise in healthy populations,” wrote the authors in the introductory statement of the paper.
In the paper, the authors discussed the benefits of physical activity on improving brain function. The advantages of physical activity on cognitive ability were especially seen in older generations. While mental deterioration is a part of aging, the researchers believe that this does not have to apply to certain parts of cognitive function. In this regard, the scientists discovered that task switching, selective attention, and working memory were areas that could be boosted by aerobic exercise.
To better understand the advantages of aerobic exercise, the authors of the paper reviewed studies in older adults and consistently found that fitter individuals did better on mental ability exams than their counterparts who were less fit. As well, intervention studies showed that the scores of participants in mental tests improved when they were given a regimen of aerobic exercise as compared to a regimen of only stretching and toning exercises.
However, the researchers did not find these results in children and adolescents; there was only a slight improvement in memory task ability of this age group when asked to complete aerobic exercise. Furthermore, fitter children seemed to have a better ability to update their working memory and had a better handle on keeping a high volume of information. There may be more benefits than known; the researchers noted that there was less information available on the advantages of aerobic exercise for children and young adults.
“In young adults, the scarcity of data to date makes it difficult to determine the specific benefits that aerobic exercise may have on different aspects of executive functioning,” explained the researchers in the article.
Overall, the team of investigators addressed the importance of maintaining physical activity and they advocated for more research to be done on the topic.
“The indications reported thus far - that regular exercise can benefit brains even when they are in their prime developmentally - warrant more rigorous investigation, particularly in the context of society becoming increasingly sedentary,” wrote the researchers in the review.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people of all ages, athletic ability, and weight can engage in aerobic exercise. Examples of aerobic exercise include biking, swimming, and walking. With aerobic activity, the breath quickens, increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood, and the heart beats faster, allowing more blood to flow in the muscles and back to the lungs.