Researchers discovered that a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training could help strengthen the brains of people over the age of fifty. The study went on to also learn that no matter what state the brain was before the study, the exercises seem to improve the brain functions. The team of researchers reviewed 39 previous studies, examining the effectiveness, intensity, type, and duration of the activities. The types of exercises included in the survey were aerobic, resistance, a combination of both, Tai Chi, and yoga. This news is from a new study published in the journal British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Aerobic exercise or cardio is a type of physical activity that can be low or high intensity. During aerobic exercise, oxygen is used in greater demands to keep up with the body’s metabolism. Aerobic exercises can be performed over an extended period. Running, jogging, swimming, cycling, and walking are examples of aerobic exercise.
Resistance training, on the other hand, is also called strength training. This type of exercise specializes in using muscle contractions to build strength, anaerobic endurance, and skeletal muscles. Resistance training can increase muscle, tendon, and ligament strength and toughness. It can also improve joint function, reduce injury, increase bone density, metabolism, and overall fitness. Weightlifting is one of the most common resistance exercises.
Within the 39 studies, the researchers analyzed were 18 studies that, according to Health that “looked at the impact of aerobic exercise…on thinking, alertness, information processing, executing goals, and memory skills.” EurekAlert! reported that the researchers analyzed the activities impact on “overall brain capacity,” which includes attention, executive function, memory, and working memory. Cognitive abilities were “significantly enhanced” by aerobic exercise while executive function, memory, and working memory were boosted by resistance exercises. Researchers found enough evidence for primary care physicians to prescribe both exercises to people in their 50s.
Tai Chi, the researchers found, also “improved cognitive abilities.” Tai chi may be helpful for those who are unable to do more challenging forms of exercise. But, the researchers cautioned, more research needs to be done before the benefits of Tai Chi can be confirmed. Health reported that the best boosts to the brain come from routines that last from 45 minutes to an hour, are practiced as often as possible, and range in intensity from moderate to vigorous. The researchers cautioned that people looking to improve their fitness but have not been physically active should always consult with their primary care physician. Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Care, Research and Education Program, Dr. Anton Porsteinsson, also added that diet was just as important to brain health as exercise is.
By Cheryl Werber