The benefits of physical activity are manifold, and especially so as we grow older. While exercise in older adults can help their physical health, a new study has found that aerobic exercise can also improve memory in seniors.
The new study noted that the greatest memory performance in inactive older adults was achieved with high-intensity interval training. It also defined a positive correlation between improvement in fitness and improvement in memory.
Participants of this research were older adults between the ages of 60 to 88, who were sedentary but healthy. They were monitored over 12 weeks where they were engaged in three sessions per week. They were further divided into groups that performed either HIIT (high-intensity interval training), MICT (moderate-interval intensity training), or stretching.
Progress was measured using a specific test to tap into the functions of new-born neurons generated by physical activity, which were more active than the ones already present, and thus more suitable for new connections and memories.
“It’s never too late to get the brain health benefits of being physically active, but if you are starting late and want to see results fast, our research suggests you may need to increase the intensity of your exercise,” says Jennifer Heisz, an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University and lead author of the study. “Exercise is a promising intervention for delaying the onset of dementia. However, guidelines for effective prevention do not exist. Our hope is this research will help form those guidelines.”
While high-intensity exercising has the best effect on memory, it is important to consider their current fitness level before older adults engage in physical activity. However, this should not deter anyone from starting to exercise at any age.
The paper was published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism and could help combat memory-affecting conditions such as dementia.