Good news for fitness fans: a new study suggests that those hours spent running or on your yoga mat in your 20s just may pay off in the form of better memory and overall cognitive function later in life.
The study, published in the journal Neurology, measured the cardiovascular health of about 2,700 people who were between the ages of 18 and 30 way back in 1985 and 1986, when the study began. Researchers continued to assess the participants through regular treadmill tests over the course of 20 years; after 25 years, the participants were tested for verbal memory, psychomotor speed, and executive function.
Even after accounting for variables like race, age, sex, and education, researchers found that those who were healthiest when the study began scored highest on the cognitive tests. What's more, participants who were more fit at their 20-year treadmill test improved their psychomotor speed.
So what does this mean? The most important takeaway from this study is that the benefits of exercise last a lifetime, and it's crucial to develop healthy habits while you're still young. According to NBC News,
[The current study] fits in with other research, including another study out this week that showed young adults who have better heart health, as measured by blood pressure, have better thinking skills in middle age than those with high blood pressure ...
Other studies have shown that if you are fit in middle age, you will preserve your brain power better. But [study leader David] Jacobs said it may be too late to start getting fit by the time you’re middle-aged. His study supports the idea that it’s important to develop good fitness habits early.
Bottom line: exercise isn't just great for your body. It's awesome for your mind!
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