older adults jogging to stay healthy

Study shows link between brain health and exercise

A new study shows it’s never too late to start exercising, even if you’ve never been physically active before, and any amount of physical activity at any age is beneficial for long-term cognitive health.

Researchers link boosting brain health with exercise and long-term study

A new long-term study published last week in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry established a connection between exercise and better cognitive health and found benefits are gained at any age.

The study tracked the physical activity patterns of nearly 1,500 people over a 30-year span into adulthood, where they were tested on their cognitive state, verbal memory, and processing speed at age 69, CNN reported.

Study author  Dr. Sarah-Naomi James, a research fellow at MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at University College London, said researchers knew going in that people who are physically active have higher cognitive function later in life than those who are inactive, as well as have a lower for dementia. However, what researchers one sure about is whether there was a specific time by which a person needed to become active in order to reap the benefits, as well as if there was an activity threshold that was required to receive cognitive benefits.

Surprising find: Small amount of activity does the trick at any age

According to the study, a boost in brain benefits was achieved with only a surprisingly small amount of activity – as little as once a month. Exercise at any time across adulthood was helpful. People who became active in their 50s or 60s achieved better cognitive stores when they reached age 70.

Numerous prior studies found similar associations between brain health and exercise

The results of this latest study add further evidence to an already existing long body of research that linked exercise to brain health.

A 2019 study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on “Physical Activity and Brain Health” also found that exercise helps maintain a healthy mind at any age while working to delay the effects of both physiological aging and pathological neurodegeneration on brain health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named a study that found cognitive decline is nearly twice as common among inactive adults as compared to those who are active.

In 2014, Harvard Medical School published links to a number of studies that found exercise improves memory and thinking both directly and indirectly. In fact, one study performed by the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise appeared to boost the size of the hippocampus – the brain area involved in memory and learning. The study found that resistance training and muscle toning exercises did not achieve the same result.