Concerned about losing your memory and mental clarity as you age? The best way for people older than 50 to keep their minds sharp is to exercise their heart and muscles on a regular basis, according to a recent review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Ultimately, findings showed that doing 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week cut the chances of depression and dementia by one third in aging populations, the BBC reports.
The review, which analyzed 39 different studies focused on physical exercise and its effects on brain function, suggested that starting exercise at any age is worthwhile — even among individuals already showing signs of cognitive decline.
For the study, researchers at the University of Canberra in Australia examined new findings that showed aerobic exercise (jogging, cycling, etc.) improved cognitive abilities, such as thinking, reading and reasoning in adults. In addition, scientists noted that muscle training (for example, lifting weights) significantly affected executive functions, such as memory and the brain’s ability to plan and organize.
“Even if you are doing moderate exercise only once or twice a week, there are still improvements in cognitive function, but the improvements were better the more exercise was done,” said Joe Northey, from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise at Canberra, one of the study’s authors.
The review found that as little as 10 minutes of exercise provided some benefit to the brain but showed that 150 minutes of physical activity a week cut the chances of depression and dementia by a third in older adults. Northey also noted that in addition to helping out seniors, physical activity seemed to boost mental health at any age.
For those older than 50 who can’t manage certain challenging exercises, researchers recommended moderate activities, such as brisk walks, tai chi or yoga or even toting heavy shopping bags, to boost brain health.
Click here to learn more about how exercise can affect your mental health.