Aerobic exercise can help healthy ageing adults improve their memory, brain health and physical fitness, a new study has found.
The study conducted by researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas found that engaging in a physical exercise regimen helps reduce the biological and cognitive consequences of ageing.
"Science has shown that ageing decreases mental efficiency and memory decline is the number one cognitive complaint of older adults," said Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, Dee Wyly Distinguished University Chair and lead author of the paper.
"This research shows the tremendous benefit of aerobic exercise on a person's memory and demonstrates that aerobic exercise can reduce both the biological and cognitive consequences of ageing," Chapman said.
For the study, sedentary adults ages 57-75 were randomised into a physical training or a wait-list control group.
The physical training group participated in supervised aerobic exercise on a stationary bike or treadmill for one hour, three times a week for 12 weeks.
Participants' cognition, resting cerebral blood flow, and cardiovascular fitness were assessed at three time points: before beginning the physical exercise regimen, mid-way through at 6 weeks, and post-training at 12 weeks.
"By measuring brain blood flow non-invasively using arterial spin labelling (ASL) MRI, we can now begin to detect brain changes much earlier than before," said Sina Aslan, founder and president of Advance MRI and collaborator on the study.
"One key region where we saw increase in brain blood flow was the anterior cingulate, indicating higher neuronal activity and metabolic rate. The anterior cingulate has been linked to superior cognition in late life," Aslan said.
Exercisers who improved their memory performance also showed greater increase in brain blood flow to the hippocampus, the key brain region affected by Alzheimer's disease.
Chapman pointed out that, using noninvasive brain imaging techniques, brain changes were identified earlier than memory improvements, implicating brain blood flow as a promising and sensitive metric of brain health gains across treatment regimens.
"Physical exercise may be one of the most beneficial and cost-effective therapies widely available to everyone to elevate memory performance. These findings should motivate adults of all ages to start exercising aerobically," Chapman said.
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.