Exercise Preserves Memory And Brain Function, New Study

If you have participated in lifelong intensive exercise from the time you were a child, you will have a better memory and overall cognitive power when you reach age 50, according to a new UK study published today in Psychological Medicine.

A team of researchers based at King’s College London took data from the UK National Child Development Study to determine the level of exercise for 9,000 people between the age of 11 and 50. After they determined who had exercised and how much, they then tested the memory and reasoning ability of the subjects.

People who exercised once a week as a child and into adulthood did better than those who exercised less often. And those who performed “intensive” exercise did best of all. In a rather depressing conclusion for people with joint pain or other mobility issues, one of the co-authors, Dr. Alex Dregan said, “It appears that intensive exercise may offer benefits for brain functioning in later life over and above those resulting from regular yet less intense exercise.”

Yes, that does seem to be saying that your nice low-impact walk in the park won’t do much to help preserve your brain.

Because the subjects had to start exercise as a child and then continue as adults to see the benefit, it also seemed to follow up on Brazilian study suggesting that the benefits of exercise to the brain wear off after only a few weeks of inactivity.

It may also imply that people who are currently exercising to preserve or improve their brain function can’t stop. For instance, a child with Down syndrome who participates in aerobic exercise to improve IQ might need to continue the exercise indefinitely.

How much exercise should you get? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that American adults between the age of 18 and 64 need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise such as a brisk walk (not a lazy stroll) every single week. If you can perform at a higher intensity, they still recommend 75 minutes of exercise each week.

However, the CDC added that the greatest health benefits for moderate-intensity exercise came when you worked out at least 300 minutes a week.

I think I prefer the study where they advised us to prevent aging in the brain by drinking a glass of red wine. But the evidence continues to pile up that, to save brain, you’ve got to exercise.

[marathon photo courtesy Martineric and Wikipedia Commons]