New research shows that a regular exercise routine can boost cognitive function.
In the study, previously sedentary adults were put through four months of high-intensity interval training. At the end, their cognitive functions — the ability to think, recall and make quick decisions — had improved significantly, said Dr. Martin Juneau, director of prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute.
“If you talk to people who exercise, they say they feel sharper. Now we’ve found a way to measure that,” he said.
The study, presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, looked at adults, average age 49, who were overweight and inactive.
The researchers measured their cognitive function with neuropsychological testing, as well as their body composition, blood flow to the brain, cardiac output and their maximum ability to tolerate exercise.
The participants then began a twice-a-week routine with an exercise bike and circuit weight training.
After four months their weight, body mass index, fat mass and waist circumference were all lower.
Meanwhile, their capacity to exercise (measured by VO2 max) was up 15 percent, according to the researchers.
Cognitive function had also increased, based on follow-up testing, according to Juneau.
These improvements were proportional to the changes in exercise capacity and body weight, he noted, explaining that the more people could exercise, and the more weight they lost, the sharper they became.
A decline in cognitive function is a normal part of aging, according to Juneau, who observed that the drop can be worse for people who have coronary disease.
“It’s reassuring to know that you can at least partially prevent that decline by exercising and losing weight,” he said.