GPs should urge adults to keep exercising right into old age if they want to keep their mental faculties, shows evidence.
Professor Art Kramer of the US Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois, has reviewed data on the effects of aerobic exercise and physical activity on the ageing brain.
Professor Kramer, a cognitive neuroscientist, found that much evidence is demonstrating that regular exercise can reduce cognitive decline and even reverse it.
When the condition of white and grey matter in certain areas of the brain begins to deteriorate, people’s ability to coordinate tasks, plan, set and stick to goals, switch between activities, and working memory all start to fail.
Exercise appears to be the ideal treatment for countering such problems, says Professor Kramer.
Carrying out any activity that makes an individual breathless boosts cognitive performance, volume of brain tissue and brain function, several studies have shown. There is evidence that both people with or without dementia benefit from such interventions.
Six months of exercise has also enabled subjects’ brains to retain plasticity.
In those that are fitter, there was less decline in grey matter than in those that undertake less activity, other studies show.
A decline in female hormones has been linked to poorer memory and weaker brain power in women. However, there is also research showing that in fitter women with more grey matter, subjects had greater executive control than those who were not regular exercisers regardless of whether the women had used HRT.
‘We can safely argue that an active lifestyle with moderate amounts of aerobic activity will likely improve cognitive and brain function, and reverse the neural decay frequently observed in older adults,’ said Professor Kramer, in this month’s issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.