Physical Activity Linked to Better Memory in Older Adults
Physical activity has many health benefits and now new research indicates that better memory may be one of them. A study published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society has shown that older adults who get more exercise score better on memory tests.
The study involved 29 adults between the ages of 18 and 31, and 31 older adults between the ages of 55 and 82. All participants spent some time wearing an ActiGraph – a device which records information on how many steps are taken, how vigorous the steps are and how much time is involved. This device was used to gain more objective information than would be obtained if participants were asked to report their physical activity.
Participants also underwent neuropsychological testing so that researchers could assess their memory, planning and problem-solving skills, and they took part in a laboratory task which involved learning face-name associations. The results showed that older adults who took more steps each day performed better on the memory tests than those who were less physically active.
“Our findings that physical activity is positively associated with memory is appealing for a variety of reasons,” says Dr Scott Hayes, who led the study. “Everyone knows that physical activity is a critical component to ward off obesity and cardiovascular-related disease. Knowing that a lack of physical activity may negatively impact one’s memory abilities will be an additional piece of information to motivate folks to stay more active.”
Interestingly, the same link between number of steps and memory performance was not found in the younger participants. The researchers say that ageing is linked to reductions in executive and episodic memory, and that the findings of this study indicate that physical activity helps to prevent such decline. However, they add that more research is needed “to explore the specific mechanisms of how physical activity may positively impact brain structure and function.”
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