A new research led by University of Pittsburgh psychologists has used data from dozens of studies to show that exercise helps older adults help prevent decline in a certain kind of memory by adapting a regular exercise regimen, as reported by Medicalexpress.com
“Everyone always asks, ‘How much should I be exercising? What’s the bare minimum to see improvement’?” said lead author Sarah Aghjayan, a Clinical and Biological Health Psychology PhD student at the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. “From our study, it seems like exercising about three times a week for at least four months is how much you need to reap the benefits in episodic memory.”
Episodic memory is the kind that deals with events that happened to you in the past. It’s also one of the first to decline with age. “I usually like to talk about the first time you got behind the wheel of a car,” said Aghjayan. “So you might remember where you were, how old you were, who was in the passenger seat explaining things to you, that feeling of excitement.”
You just need a good pair of walking shoes, and you can get out there and move your body
Exercise that gets the heart pumping has shown promise in increasing brain health, and experiments in mice show that it improves memory – but studies looking at the same link in humans have come out mixed, the report says.
Seeking clarity in the muddy waters of the scientific literature, the team pored over 1,279 studies, eventually narrowing them down to just 36 that met specific criteria. Then they used specialized software and no small number of Excel spreadsheets to transform the data info a form where the different studies could be directly compared.
That work paid off when they found that pooling together those 36 studies was enough to show that exercise helps older adults strengthen their memory. The team published their results in the journal Communications Medicine on February 17. “When we combine and merge all this data, it allows us to examine almost 3,000 participants,” Aghjayan said.
With that much larger pool of participants, the team was able to show a link between exercise and episodic memory, but also was able to start to answer more specific questions about who benefits and how.
“We found that there were greater improvements in memory among those who are age 55 to 68 years compared to those who are 69 to 85 years old – so intervening earlier is better,” Aghjayan said. The team also found the greatest effects of exercise in those who hadn’t yet experienced any cognitive decline, and in studies where participants exercised consistently several times a week.