Seniors Fitness: Mind and Body

August 20, 2015

Many studies give strong evidence that exercise helps maintain our cognitive abilities as we age. Now, a new study provides us with some important and surprising new information. The study -- published last month in PLOS One -- was conducted by scientists at the University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center and other institutions. It focused on pinpointing the amount of exercise that is needed to improve thinking skills. Participants in the study included 101 generally healthy adults, 65 years old and older, who led sedentary lifestyles and no symptoms of cognitive impairments. This demographic was decided upon because it is the age when worrisome symptoms commonly start to appear. Participants were first tested on a variety of factors including aerobic capacity, memory and thought processes. After testing, they were randomly divided into four groups. People in the control group continued their normal lives, participants in the other three groups asked to adopt different regimens of brisk walking. One group walked for 75 minutes per week (one half the recommended regimen), the second group walked for 150 minutes (the recommended regimen), while the third group walked for 225 minutes (one and one-half the recommended period) per week. Workouts for all groups were monitored at the local YMCA and accomplished using either a treadmill or an elliptical machine. After 26 weeks, all of the participants returned to the lab to repeat the original tests. The results? Unexpectedly, the more an individual exercised, the more his or her capacity and overall fitness increased. However, the improvements to cognitive functions were about the same whether people had exercised for 75 minutes a week or 225 minutes, leading researches to conclude that a small dose of exercise such as brisk walking for 20 or 25 minutes 3 or 4  times a week will improve our cognitive skills as we age and help to keep our brains sharp!

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