Regular yoga and other exercise keeps the mind sharp, a new study has found. The study found that doing moderate exercise several times a week is the best way to keep the mind sharp if you’re over 50. Thinking and memory skills were most improved when people exercised the heart and muscles on a regular basis. This remained true in those who already showed signs of cognitive decline.
Physical activity has long been known to reduce the risk of a number of diseases, including type-2 diabetes and some cancers. It is thought to play a role in warding off the brain’s natural decline as we enter middle age.
Researchers from the University of Canberra looked at the effects of at least four weeks of structured physical exercise on the brain function of adults.
They found evidence of aerobic exercise improving cognitive abilities, such as thinking, reading, learning and reasoning. Muscle training (for example, using weights) had a significant effect on memory and the brain’s ability to plan and organise.
The theory is that through exercise the brain receives a greater supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients that boost its health. Exercise also produces a growth hormone that helps the formation of new neurons and connections.
Joe Northey, researcher from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise, said the findings were convincing enough to enable both types of exercise to be prescribed to improve brain health in the over-50s.
“Even if you are doing moderate exercise only once or twice a week there are still improvements in cognitive function, but the improvements were better the more exercise was done,” he said.
Dr David Reynolds, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said it was equally important to look after our brains by staying mentally active, eating a balanced diet, drinking only in moderation and not smoking.