Old age is a fate everyone will face. Your may be fit and energetic now, but as the years pass, your physical and mental performance will decline: you’ll find your body easily falls pray to aches and your weight at the whim of everything you eat.

At 40 and upwards (even earlier) your body won’t feel the same way it did when you were in your 20s—that’s just a fact of life. However, recent study shows that all is not lost. According to researchers in neurology, exercise can improve declining cognitive abilities.

Researchers studied 160 adults aged 65 on average, with sedentary lifestyles and some cognitive impairment, not including dementia. (Those with dementia were not included in the study.) Before the test, the subjects were required to take a thinking test. After six months of exercising, the subjects scored higher in tests, an obvious show of improvement. So what’s the secret?

The researchers told the group to maintain a regular exercise routine: the subjects participated in work outs that kept their heart pumping, such as cycling and walking. The subjects worked out for a total of 45 minutes. After six months, the subjects saw improvement—their routine reversed cognitive decline to an equivalent of nine years.

Thanks to regular exercise, the subjects improved thinking skills related to regulating behavior, paying attention, organizing ideas, and achieving goals. Exercising, however, did not improve memory. Nonetheless, the result of this study has researchers optimistic. One researcher, James Blumenthal of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina believes exercise may delay dementia.

“There are currently no proven medical therapies to stop or reverse age-related cognitive decline, and these lifestyle changes have the potential to delay the onset of dementia for years,” said Blumenthal

The study shows the importance of exercise, particularly for older adults with cognitive impairment. Sandra Bond, founder of the BrainHealth center at the University of Texas has this to say about exercise:

“The pre-dementia stage of the population studied is a critical time to be proactive about staving off brain vulnerabilities. Individuals can impact their brain health significantly by exercising regularly, reducing salt and adding food that is rich in potassium and magnesium.”

Recommended Exercises for Older Adults

Clearly, exercise is an important aspect of keeping your brain young, even when your body no longer is. However, not all older adults have the flexibility and strength to perform exercise routines that they once did in their younger years. Keeping that in mind, here are a few recommended exercises:

1. Weekly moderate aerobic activity, such as cycling and walking, for at least 150 minutes.

2. Strength exercises two or more days a week, working out muscles in your legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.

3. If capable, do weekly vigorous aerobic activity, such as running and playing sports, for a maximum of 75 minutes.

Moderate aerobic activity includes the following:

  • Walking
  • Water aerobics
  • Biking
  • Dancing
  • Tennis
  • Canoeing
  • Volleyball

Vigorous aerobic activity includes the following:

  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Aerobics
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Tennis
  • Football
  • Dancing
  • Martial arts

Start Now

The study may have only involved older adults, but exercising should be a part of everyone’s lifestyle, to both the young and the old. If you already have a regular exercise routine, good for you. Keep up the great work. If not, it’s not too late to start now.  

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