Exercise May Improve Thinking In Sedentary Seniors With Cognitive Decline

Recently, a small study was done on 160 adults who averaged around 65 years in age who were experiencing some cognitive impairment but not dementia. Seniors may take heart from the results of this research, in that if they can persuade themselves to take up some sort of aerobic exercise they just might find their thinking skills improving over time.

In this study, the participants also had a history of being sedentary. They were randomly selected to be in one of four groups. They all were tested for cognitive ability at the start of the study.

The first group was asked to do some form of aerobic exercise three times a week.
The second group received nutrition counseling for a healthy diet.
The third group both exercise and nutrition counseling for a healthy diet.
And the fourth group was the control group that made no changes in exercise or diet.

At the end of the study they were all tested again and the results were really interesting!

The first group that added 45 minutes of exercise to their lifestyle three times a week included a 10 minute warm-up and 35 minutes of aerobic exercise. They also worked at improving working out up to 85 percent of their maximum heart rate. This group showed higher scores in their cognitive abilities which researchers say is equivalent to reversing almost nine years of aging! Well, let’s exercise then!

There were even more improvements in other areas for this first group of exercises, such as better control of behavior, improved attention span, better at organizational skills and even attaining goals.

For the second group which was taught the DASH diet which lowered sodium intake but increased their intake of high fiber foods like fruits and veggies, beans, nuts and low-fat dairy products, there wasn’t much of an improvement in their cognitive test scores at the end of the study. So a change in diet alone might make one feel better but doesn’t do a whole lot for cognitive improvement.

Now, the third group which both exercised and followed the DASH diet showed the greatest improvements in their cognitive skills which researchers feel suggest how important a good nutritional diet is to improve the effects of exercise and overall health.

For the control group which neither added exercise nor a nutritional diet to their lifestyle although they did receive counseling, there was no cognitive improvement when they were tested at the end of the six months. In fact, the study showed that their cognitive abilities showed a slight decline equivalent to about six months in aging.

The important take away from this study is to not remain sedentary! Exercise, eat right and healthy — both in moderation.

Sandra Bond Chapman, founder of the BrainHealth center at the University of Texas at Dallas gives good advice: “Individuals can impact their brain health significantly by exercising regularly, reducing salt and adding food that is rich in potassium and magnesium.”