Can a new exercise regimen boost your brain health if you’re over 50?
Possibly, suggests a new research review that found middle-age folks can improve their thinking and memory skills by adopting regular moderate-to-vigorous routines involving aerobic and resistance exercise.
“When we combined the available data from [39 previous] studies, we were able to show that undertaking physical exercise was able to improve the brain function of people aged 50 and over,” said study lead author Joseph Northey. He’s a doctoral candidate and teaching fellow at the University of Canberra Research Institute for Sport and Exercise in Australia.
Results of Exercise on Memory
The review included 18 studies that looked at the impact of aerobic exercise — such as walking, running and swimming — on thinking, alertness, information processing, executing goals and memory skills.
Resistance training, such as weight lifting, was the focus of 13 studies. Another 10 studies looked at various types of exercise done in combination. And, a handful of studies specifically explored the impact of tai chi and yoga on brain health. Study participants did their exercise under some degree of supervision, the researchers noted.
Activity routines were categorized in terms of exercise type, intensity and length. They were then stacked up against the results of tests that measured brain performance. In the end, the researchers determined that exercise did help brain health. However, different forms of exercise were linked to different types of benefits. For example, aerobic exercise and tai chi appeared to enhance overall brain function. Resistance training was linked to improved memory.
Northey added that, besides highlighting the benefits of aerobic exercise, “being able to show that resistance training — such as lifting weights or using body weight — was similarly beneficial is a very novel and important finding.”
“Combining both aerobic and resistance training is ideal,” he said. “In addition to improving your brain function as our review shows, you should expect to see improvements in cardio-respiratory fitness and muscle strength, which are important for maintaining general health and being able to undertake day-to-day tasks,” Northey said.
The research team also concluded that the biggest brain boost comes from routines that are of moderate to vigorous intensity and conducted as often as possible for between 45 minutes to an hour. But will middle-aged people new to exercise gain as much of a brain boost as those who’ve been exercising for decades?
“We know in many animal models and population type studies that the longer people are physically active the greater the benefits to brain function,” Northey said.
He added that more research is underway to assess just how much exercising while young might ultimately confer on brain health among those over 50.
Northey also offered some advice for those motivated by the findings to get moving. If you’re currently inactive, he suggested speaking to your doctor to make sure it’s safe for you to start exercising.
“It is also worthwhile gaining some instruction on exercise methods to ensure that you are setting achievable goals and getting the most out of the time invested in exercise,” he said.
Dr. Anton Porsteinsson is director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Care, Research and Education Program with the University of Rochester School of Medicine in Rochester, N.Y. He said that earlier investigations looking into the protective effect of exercise on brain health “have not agreed on this matter.” But looked at collectively, he said, the current review “suggests that exercise, including aerobic exercise, resistance training and tai chi, is beneficial to brain health in addition to the well-established positive effects that exercise has to improve general health and reduce risk of disease.
“Of particular interest to me,” Porsteinsson added, “is that a combination of aerobic and resistance training appears to have the largest effect.” “(And) along with studies suggesting that certain diets contribute to brain health,” he noted, “it appears that adopting a healthy lifestyle is never too late.”
SOURCES: Joseph Michael Northey, Ph.D. candidate and teaching fellow, University of Canberra Research Institute for Sport and Exercise, Canberra, Australia; Anton Porsteinsson, M.D., professor, psychiatry, neurology, and director, Alzheimer’s Disease Care, Research and Education Program, University of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, N.Y.; April 24, 2017 British Journal of Sports Medicine online
The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic and spinal injuries and conditions. To discuss options on the subject matter, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900 .
Additional Topics: What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic care is an well-known, alternative treatment option utilized to prevent, diagnose and treat a variety of injuries and conditions associated with the spine, primarily subluxations or spinal misalignments. Chiropractic focuses on restoring and maintaining the overall health and wellness of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Through the use of spinal adjustments and manual manipulations, a chiropractor, or doctor of chiropractic, can carefully re-align the spine, improving a patientâ€™s strength, mobility and flexibility.
.video-containerposition: relative; padding-bottom: 63%; padding-top: 35px; height: 0; overflow: hidden;.video-container iframeposition: absolute; top:0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; border: none; max-width:100%!important;
The information herein on "The Impact of Exercise on Brain Health" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.
We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from various disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.
Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and directly or indirectly support our clinical scope of practice.*
Our office has reasonably attempted to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request.
We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez, DC, or contact us at 915-850-0900.
We are here to help you and your family.
Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
My Digital Business Card