Jeannie Yagi from Positive Coaching Alliance passed on this story written by Karolina Starczak that shows the value of regular physical exercise. (She sent it to me a couple of weeks ago, but I had forgotten to post it onto my blog!)
From Sudoku puzzles to adding DHA to yogurt, we have become obsessed with improving memory. If you’re having a hard time keeping everything straight and organized in your overworked noggin, then a study published in the August issue of Neurobiology of Aging may have a solution—physical activity.
The six month study looked at sixty-two healthy elderly participants who were placed in moderate to low physical activity programs. In order to test the different types of exercise, participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: non-exercise control group, walking group, and a gymnastics group. The medium exercise intensity group followed a “Nordic walking” exercise program, which is a form of walking that combines the use of hand poles in order to not only work the legs, but the upper body as well. The low-intensity group followed a gymnastics regimen, where they incorporated upper and lower body toning as well as stretching.
During the six months, participants from both exercise groups had to attend at least three of their 50 minute assigned classes. Once the six month period was over, everyone has to complete a physical activity questionnaire, aerobic fitness test, memory performance assessment, depression evaluation, blood work, and a head MRI. Whew! That’s almost more work than the workouts.
While both groups increased their memory recall, the low-intensity group actually outperformed the medium-intensity group. On the other hand, the walking medium-intensity group showed an increase in gray matter in parts of the brain that are responsible for memory encoding and retrieval, processing cognitive information and emotional content, and problem solving.
To reap the benefits of exercise, try not to overwhelm yourself with the intensity level, but turn your focus to being active on a regular basis. Whether you enjoy yoga or love to go for an afternoon stroll, all forms of exercise are beneficial to improving memory and preventing cognitive decline as we age.