It’s common knowledge that exercise helps maintain or even improve our physical capabilities as we get older. However, a growing number of studies indicate that exercise can help preserve cognitive functions for as long as 10 years. Abilities we take for granted when we’re young such as forming perceptions, thinking clearly and remember things accurately decline as we age. Some studies have shown improvement with subjects engaging in moderate exercise (source). The biggest improvements, however, appear to come from engaging in intense exercise on a regular basis. If you needed a reason to pick up your intensity in the gym this seems like a great one!
Training Effect on Cognitive Functions
The latest research suggests that the increased blood flow to the brain that comes with regular, intense exercise could be the key factor in preserving cognitive functions. The researchers defined intense exercise as raising the heart rate for an extended period several times a week (source).
“Aerobic exercise is a cost-effective practice that is associated with numerous physical benefits.” It is also increasingly clear that “…exercise also provides a cognitive benefit for some adults with mild cognitive impairment .” The researchers are clear that, although exercise is great for the body and the mind, it is not a panacea.
“Moderate physical activity performed in midlife or later appears to be associated with a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment, whereas a six-month high-intensity aerobic exercise program may improve cognitive function in individuals who already have the condition, according to two reports in the January issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals (source).”
Sound Body Sound Mind
Regular exercise has long been touted as a fountain of youth for your body, but the benefits for your mind are even more important. One study that included overweight and sedentary people had subjects perform 2 sessions of intense exercise in the form of interval training. When the 4-week study ended the subjects performed better on tests that measured their cognitive functions (source). The factor was the intensity not the specific kind of exercise. This means you can potentially reap the same benefits from a variety of workouts including running, swimming, cycling, boot camp and circuit training. Regardless of which workouts you perform you’ll be helping to keep your body and your mind healthy.