A new study has found that older adults who have greater heart and lung health also have better memory recall and cognitive capabilities.
For the new study, researchers at Boston University Medical Center compared 33 young adults between the ages of 18 and 31 and 27 older adults between the ages of 55 and 82 with a wide range of cardiorespiratory levels.
Participants completed exercise testing to evaluate their cardiorespiratory function and neuropsychological testing to assess their memory, planning, and problem-solving abilities.
In addition to standardized neuropsychological tasks of executive function and long-term memory, participants also engaged in a laboratory task in which they had to learn face-name associations.
The researchers found that the older adults who had higher cardiorespiratory levels performed as well as young adults on executive function measures. On long-term memory measures, young adults performed better than older fit adults, who in turn performed better than low fit older adults.
In older adults, better physical fitness level was associated with improved executive function and memory. In young adults, fitness had no effect on memory or executive functions, according to the study’s findings.
According to the researchers, these findings demonstrate that the effect of cardiorespiratory fitness is not limited to executive function, but also extends to long-term memory.
“Our findings that cardiorespiratory fitness may mitigate age-related cognitive decline is appealing for a variety of reasons,” said corresponding author Scott Haynes, Ph.D., “including that aerobic activities to enhance cardiorespiratory fitness (walking, dancing, etc) are inexpensive, accessible and could potentially improve quality of life by delaying cognitive decline and prolonging independent function.”
“More research is needed to explore the specific mechanism of how physical fitness enhances brain structure and function, as well as to clarify the impact of specific exercise programs (i.e. strength, aerobic, or combined training) or dose of exercise (frequency, intensity, duration) on a range of cognitive functions,” said Haynes, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine.
The study was published in the Journal of Gerontology.
Source: Boston University Medical Center