Exercise improves cognitive function in over 50s?

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Resistance training had a pronounced effect on executive function, memory, and working memory.

While it has been suggested that physical activity is a promising intervention in preventing and delaying the onset of cognitive decline in over 50s, evidence of the effects of exercise in patients with pre-existing cognitive deficit are inconclusive.

A new study to determine if physical activity is effective in improving cognitive function in this population has now concluded such activities can improve cognitive function of older adults, regardless of baseline cognitive status.

After reviewing 39 relevant studies to assess the potential impact of varying types of exercise, the authors concluded that a combination of aerobic and resistance type exercise, of at least moderate intensity on as many days of the week as feasible, is beneficial to cognitive function.  Aerobic exercise significantly enhanced cognitive abilities while resistance training had a pronounced effect on executive function, memory, and working memory. Tai chi may also be a promising intervention, the authors said, but further high-quality randomised controlled trials are required.

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine , recommends patients obtain both aerobic and resistance exercise for cognitive function. “The dosage of physical exercise is important and clinicians should ensure their exercise recommendations are individualised and provide a sufficient training stimulus,” the authors said.

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