By 2050, 2 billion members of the world will be over 60 years old, and their ability to stay mentally fit is a big problem. Since there are few available treatments to protect brain health, is exercise part of the answer? If so, what "dose" should the doctor's prescription pad recommend?
University of Miami researchers studied 98 studies (totaling more than 11,000 people) of "couch potatoes", all over 60 years old. Based on the Mini Mental Status Examination – a "mental fitness" scale used by primary care providers – people have been categorized into three categories: healthy adults, those with mild cognitive impairment, and those with dementia. In all studies, people began to exercise in different intensities for different periods of time and were then reassessed.
We usually hear how much "one day" or "one week" we should train, but this analysis has good news for people who want to start training and can not make it their daily habit.
"Exercise made a" Dr. Joyce Gomes-Osman, author of the study and director of the Neuromotor Plasticity Laboratory and Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy and Neurology at the Miller School of Medicine, told ABC News.
The researchers found that all hours of training were important. People who exercised for at least one hour for a total of 52 hours over an average of six months showed increased mental performance as they improved their ability to remember, learn, plan, focus, and resolve problems , were tested. In addition, improvements were observed in individuals with and without cognitive impairment.
There is no need to limit to 52 hours during this six-month period, as the data suggest that there may be other benefits.
Gomes-Osman suggested "seeing your training routine as a scoring system where the goal is to reach at least 52 hours, and once you reach that mark, you should benefit from a cognitive gain [brain health]."
It seems to be the largest number of training sessions over six months, she added.
The exercise does not have to be exhausting either. Low-intensity exercises, such as running, showed the same benefits as moderate or high activity, such as running, cycling or weight-lifting. Anyone over the age of 60 may not have the strength, cardiovascular skills, or the desire to do a hard workout, but most can walk or swim.
There was no correlation between the exercise time in minutes, the number of sessions per week, or the total number of weeks – only in hours in the long run.
"There is a great deal of evidence already linking exercise to brain health," Gomes-Osman told ABC.
So, what does the exercise recipe look like?
Always discuss with a physician before starting a workout routine, but it is recommended to start slowly. Work up to an hour and stay with it. Long-term exposure over several months seems to be the key to promoting a healthy brain.
Eric M. Asher, DO, is a family doctor from New York, who is working for the third year in the medical department of ABC News.