Exercise boosts the brain... even if you're a couch potato
London - You feel like you need a brain boost? It is never too late to lace up some trainers and work up a sweat to boost brain health, according to a study.
Researchers say older adults, even couch potatoes, perform better on thinking and memory tests after just six months of aerobic exercise.
Study author Dr Marc Poulin said: "We lose a bit mentally and physically as we age. But even if you start an exercise programme later in life, the benefit to your brain may be immense. Aerobic exercise gets blood moving. It may also get blood moving to your brain in areas responsible for verbal fluency and executive functions."
The study, published in Neurology, involved 206 adults who, before starting the six-month exercise intervention, worked out no more than four days per week at a moderate intensity, or no more than two days per week at high intensity.
They had an average age of 66 and no history of heart or memory problems. Participants were enrolled in a supervised aerobic exercise programme three days a week. Its intensity was gradually increased.
After six months, participants improved by 5.7 percent on tests of executive function, which includes mental flexibility and self-correction. Verbal fluency, which tests how quickly you can retrieve information, increased by 2.4 percent.
Dr Poulin, of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, said the boost in verbal skills was similar to that seen in someone five years younger.
"To have these types of increases is exciting," he said.