Maybe you exercise to tone your thighs, build your biceps, or flatten your belly. Or maybe you work out to ward off the big killers like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But how about sweating to improve your mind? There are all sorts of benefits one can gain from a consistent exercise regiment, outside of just losing weight. Not only can your mood and happiness be improved, but apparently, if you exercise enough you’ll be strengthening your brain’s ability to think.
Scientific experts associated with the University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center, along with some other institutions, put a study together to determine if exercise can improve one’s ability to think, and just how much exercise is necessary to do so. They gathered about 101 sedentary adults who were at least 65 years old, all healthy generally speaking, who show no signs or symptoms of dementia or any other kind of cognitive impairments.
Dr. Jeffrey Burns, the co-director of the University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center and the study’s senior author, says that a handful of specific volunteers were chosen because the men and women had reached that age where declines in memory and thinking skills occur.
These individuals were escorted into the lab and scientists had them complete a series of tests, including measurements of their capacity for aerobics and studying their capacity to think and remember. After this, the volunteers were assigned, at random, to 1 of 4 groups.
Those in the other 3 groups were told to just walk at a brisk pace. One group exercised for 75 minutes per week, half of the current recommendation which is 150 minutes per week. Another group was told to exercise for 150 minutes per week, while the third group was directed to exercise for 225 minutes per week.
They all headed over to a local YMCA to perform their workouts, which consisted of supervised brisk walks on a treadmill, which lasted about 25 minutes to an hour. After the 26 week process, all of the participants returned to the lab to repeat the original tests.
There were noticeable physical differences right off the bat. The more someone had exercised, the more their endurance capacity increased. The volunteers exercising for 75 minutes per week were somewhat more fit; those exercising for 150 minutes per week were even more fit; and those who walked for 225 minutes per week were the most fit.
Most showed improvements in their thinking skills, their ability to concentrate and to create visual maps of spaces in their heads. Ultimately, the encouraging takeaway from this experiment is that power walking for 20 or 25 minutes, several times a week — which almost anyone should be able to do — may help to keep our minds sharp as the years go by.