Exercise is the closest thing to a miracle drug we have. Whether it's mood enhancement, better muscle tone, or a keener mind you're looking for, two types of workouts are the easiest way to achieve those goals.
The first, aerobic exercise or cardio, is the kind of workout that pumps your heart and sweat flows. The second is strength training, which helps to weaken the aging muscles over time. As far as how much exercise you should get to reap benefits to your brain, a large new review of nearly 100 studies found in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice found that older people who get about one hour of training three times a week showed significant cognitive benefits compared to people who had less or no exercise.
These benefits included higher processing speeds and better performance in tests that measure skills such as time management and the ability to pay attention.
"This is proof that you can turn back the clock of aging in your brain with a regular exercise program," says study author Joyce Gomes-Osman, rehabilitation scientist at the University of Miami's Miller School Medicine, MedPage said today.
Turning Back the Age of Aging
Healthy brains seem to rely on frequent movements. Several recent studies have linked regular physical activity with a decreased risk of dementia, stronger brain connections in key memory centers, and better performance in a battery of cognitive tests.
At the last review, scientists tried to figure out what the optimal "dose" of exercise would be to achieve some of these cognitive benefits. They examined 98 randomized controlled trials that together included more than 11,000 elderly people with a mean age of 73 years. More than half of these participants did not practice regularly before being included in one of the studies.
The researchers then analyzed the details of the participants' training sessions and gathered information on how often they came to the gym, how intense the training was, how long they had to go through a training plan, and more. Walking was the most popular type of cardio workout people participated in, but others did cycling, dancing, strength training, and body-mind training like Tai Chi or Yoga.
Earlier research has shown that magic begins with 45-minute workouts. But an increasing body of evidence suggests that the time you spend on a single workout is less important than the amount of time you spend in the gym for extended periods of time. This means that whether your last workout was five or fifty minutes is less important than meeting the runway or the pool regularly – at least several times a week.
According to the report, the most effective dose of exercise – the average amount associated with specific positive results for the brain – was approximately 52 hours over a 6-month period. The scientists saw a significant link between this amount of exercise and people's performance in tests that measured two key successes in terms of thinking skills: attention span and the time it took people to perform a mental task.
Even though they make up about one hour of training on average three times a week, they could also take other forms. A strenuous 3-hour bike ride could be enough to meet your weekly assignment, for example, even if you did not do any other exercise during that time.
Another important part of the study was that the exercise the researchers considered was not limited to sweatproofs such as power cycling or heated yoga. Moderate-level workouts such as walking and gentle swimming were also included.
"We were thrilled to see that people who took part in lower intensity exercise programs also benefited from their thinking skills, and not everyone has the stamina or motivation to start a moderately intense exercise program, but everyone does It can benefit even from a less intense plan, "said Gomes-Osman in a statement.