It's long been known that exercise adds years to our lives and keeps us physically fit, but a new study shows that it keeps us mentally fit as well. The paywalled study, with the mouthful of a title, Cerebral/Peripheral Vascular Reactivity and Neurocognition in Middle-Age Athletes, compared athletes to healthy couch potatoes for both brawn and brain.
About 32 endurance-trained (more than seven hours of workouts per week) and 27 healthy but sedentary participants (less than an hour per week) between 43 and 65 years old were measured for maximal oxygen intake (VO2max), a common measure of aerobic fitness measured as you run on a treadmill and breathe into a mask. VO2max is highest among endurance athletes who cycle, row, cross-country ski or run, although most of the tested athletes were runners. The study also measured blood flow to the brain and did a "neurocognitive assessment," a series of cognitive tests that gauged a subject’s memory and attention.
A coauthor of the study, Dr. Martha Pyron, tells Nelson Rice of Runner's World:
The findings from this study suggest that middle-age runners do not only have better cardiovascular function and health, but also enhanced cognitive performance, particularly in the domains linked with age related cognitive decline and impairment.
Or as the authors concluded in the abstract of the study:
Endurance-trained middle-aged adults demonstrated better cognitive performance which may, at least in part, be mediated by their enhanced vascular function, including cerebral and endothelial-dependent vascular reactivity.
The message is pretty clear: If you're a boomer still trying to compete in the workplace or a senior trying to keep up, sudoku and scrabble are fine, but remember that physical exercise is as important as mental exercise.
So excuse me while I go get into my scull.
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