These 3 Exercises Could Promote Cognitive Function In Aging Adults, According To Research
As we get older, protecting our cognitive health is paramount to sustaining wellbeing and promoting longevity. Exercise, of course, has long been known as one of the best things you can do to keep healthy, but when it comes to cognition, which exercises are best? That's what new research published in the journal BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine wanted to know—here's what they found.
Studying aerobic exercise and cognition
For this study, researchers wanted to look at the immediate effects of aerobic exercise on cognition in older, healthy adults, namely looking at three aerobic exercises that demand cognitive focus: walking, nordic walking, and golf.
The study included 25 healthy golfers aged 65 and up, who participated in the three different exercises. They played 18 holes of golf, took six-kilometer Nordic walks (a type of walking that incorporates poles to work the arms), and did six-kilometers of regular walking. They were in natural environments and could move at their typical pace.
Different measures of cognitive function were assessed, such as attention, processing speed, and task-switching ability, as well as blood samples to look at the brain-benefits of the exercises. Fitness monitors were also worn to look at factors like pace, distance, energy expenditure, steps, etc.
And based on the findings, it seems these three exercises are great options for adults who want to stay active and keep their minds sharp. Not only did just one session of any of these three exercises improve cognitive function, but Nordic and regular walking also both showed enhanced executive functions effects.
What to do about it
As the study's lead author Julia Kettinen Ph.D. notes in a news release, the team's findings highlight the value of age-appropriate aerobic exercise when it comes to maintaining and enhancing cognitive function in older adults. "Previous research has shown that exercise also holds promise as a potential strategy for those experiencing cognitive decline," Kettinen adds.
And the good news is, walking and golfing are two leisurely forms of exercise that can be fun and engaging. In case you weren't sure, BTW, Nordic walking is walking with poles to engage the upper body as well as the lower body.
Here's our guide on how to actually walk 10,000 steps a day to help you get started.
We'd all like to ensure sharper minds and stronger bodies as we get older, and simple aerobic exercises can help us do so. Whether you're gearing up for an evening stroll or dusting off the golf clubs in your garage, your cognition will thank you for it.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.