Study: Regular Exercise Keeps The Mind Sharp In Over-50s

7 minute read

By now, people are used to hearing about how exercise is good for the body. Of course, this means that it should also be excellent for the brain. There really is no separation between the brain and the body, and while lots of people like to pretend that there is, no such separation actually exists.

As such, it should not surprise most people to learn that exercise might be able to help middle-aged men and women hold onto their cognitive functioning as they continue to get older.

Studies Back Exercise For Over 50s

There are several different studies that suggest that this is the case. A recent British Medical Journal of Sports Medicine study specifically suggests that people over the age of 50 who exercise at least forty-five minutes a day several days a week will experience improvements in brain power as a result.

One of the great things about the implications of this study is that people will get these benefits regardless of whether or not they have sustained a lot of brain damage over the years. The effect likewise works on people with healthy, young minds as well as more knowledgeable, older minds.

The substantial lifestyle benefits of regular exercise are particularly obvious if people really look at the studies as a whole. The review of thirty-nine studies suggests that if people frequently exercise their hearts and their muscles, their ability to think and recall information will improve at the same time.

A review of these studies truly demonstrates that even in the case of the people who have suffered from cognitive decline, exercising the heart and muscles will lead to many cognitive improvements.

Obviously, once people have accepted that there are clear brain benefits associated with exercising, the next step is to ask how much exercise is required for the sake of brain fitness.

Senior couple jogging in the park

People seem to get a lot of these benefits if they regularly enjoy exercise sessions that will last between forty-five to sixty minutes. It's hard to establish the exact frequency at which these exercise sessions should occur, of course.

However, as long as people do these sessions somewhat regularly, they should be able to look after the health and wellness of their bodies and minds, which are more connected than a lot of people think. The health benefits are substantial.

People should then ask about the type of exercise that they need to do in order to get all of these benefits. Obviously, there is no simple answer for that. However, playing a vigorous sport doesn't seem to be required or necessarily needed.

A lot of people over the age of fifty will want to avoid sport injuries anyway, which are even more difficult to treat at people age, and which are unnecessary and unwanted at any age. It's possible to get the body fit and to keep it that way without taking up baseball or basketball at the age of fifty.

Some older people might be suffering from certain mobility problems. T'ai Chi is
a great type of exercise to try for the people who might have a hard time handling some of the trickier exercises.

These studies demonstrate that stretching like this will lead to a lot of cognitive benefits. It is true that many of the studies included in the review did not relate to T'ai Chi specifically. However, it is still clear that T'ai Chi helps people in this regard.

A group of senior citizens doing Tai Chi at the park

Types of Athletic Training

Resistance Training

Resistance training also appears to be a really important part of the picture overall. (People can still get benefits like this from other forms of exercise, of course.)

However, resistance training is still one of the most important types of exercise that people can do if they want to hold onto their cognitive function with age. Resistance training has many other health benefits, as well, worth exploring.

People can ward off the loss of muscle that normally occurs after age fifty with resistance training as well. Resistance training has a lot of metabolic benefits in general, and it can certainly improve a person's general health.

However, brain health is physical health, and that really means that it is a good idea for people to be able to try resistance training for themselves.

Still, people need to exercise their hearts as well as the rest of their muscles in order to get the cognitive function benefits that they need. Aerobic exercise of any kind can make all the difference in the world for the people who are really interested in trying to hold onto their cognition after the age of fifty.

Strength Training

The blood flow to the brain might be substantially better as a result of all of the exercise, which could certainly explain some of these cognitive benefits.

Strength training exercises in particular seem to make a huge difference when it comes to planning, organizing, and memorizing information.

Aerobic Training

Aerobic exercise had even more diverse effects, helping people get better at learning, reading, writing, reasoning, and thinking in general.

People who do both aerobic and anaerobic exercise on a regular basis should really manage to improve their minds and the rest of their bodies as well.

The studies included in the review often specifically looked at exercise regimens lasting for a duration of four weeks. People seemed to be able to get results in that span of time, which is a fairly brief amount of time for the people who are trying to adopt a new health regimen. There's very little to lose to increase exercise.

Most modern health guidelines say that people should exercise moderately for one hundred and fifty minutes a week, at least when it comes to aerobic exercise, and that they should exercise major muscle groups twice a week or so.

People who exercise like this will be less likely to get type 2 diabetes and most cancers. Most other age-related problems are less likely to happen for the people who exercise on a regular basis.

A couple on their bikes in the park

The Bottom Line

Age-related cognitive decline has often been dismissed as inevitable, even as people start to realize that it is possible to prevent diseases associated with aging.

But now, people know that age-related cognitive decline is just another side effect of a sedentary lifestyle, at least in part. By increasing the time spent exercising, there are unlimited health benefits that could result.

For all of these reasons, and supported by the studies and research that has shown exercise to be so vital for people over the age of fifty, the evidence is clear: getting out and getting active is one of the best things human beings can do—at any age.