The scientific community has long believed that exercise slows down the cognitive decline that occurs naturally as people move from middle to old age. Now though, a major new study shows that brain power actually improves by staying fit.
The analysis, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, is also the first to identify the key role played by resistance training, such as weights or core strength activity, in boosting brain function. Until now, medics had overwhelmingly focused their research on aerobic exercises like swimming, cycling, jogging or fast walking, as being good for the mind.
Joseph Northey, who led the research at the University of Canberra, said doctors should be proactively prescribing exercise as a form of preventative medicine.
“Even exercising on one or two days of the week seemed to be effective, but the most important thing we found was the intensity of the exercise,” he said.
“It should be moderate, but aiming to get some vigorous intensity in there as well.”
All of the participants in the study were found to have improved their cognitive functions, in particular the ability to process information rapidly, stay alert, make goal-orientated decisions and get the most out of their long-term and short-term memories.