POST 50
09/12/2016 11:14 am ET

How Exercise In Midlife Is Tied To Better Cognition Later In Life

Here's another reason why middle-aged couch potatoes should get moving.

Listen up all you middle-aged couch potatoes. Here’s a very good reason to get up and get moving: a new long-term study has shown that moderately vigorous physical activity in midlife may decrease the risk of cognitive decline later in life.

“Overall, the study shows that moderately vigorous physical activity, meaning more strenuous than walking, is associated with better cognition after an average of 25 years,” said Professor Urho Kujala of the University of Jyväskylä in Finland in a press release. “This finding is in accordance with earlier animal model studies, which have shown that physical activity increases the amount of growth factors in the brain and improves synaptic plasticity.”

The study involved 3,050 twins from the Finnish Twin Cohort. Using questionnaires, researchers gathered physical activity information from the twins when they were in their 40s. Then, some 25 year later, their cognition was evaluated via phone interviews.

After comparing the memory and thinking-related functions of the physically active twins with those of the inactive twins, researchers concluded that fitness in midlife is associated with better cognition later in life. The link even remained after other risk factors associated with dementia ― such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure ― were factored out.

Also interesting to note: researchers found that a moderate amount of exercise was adequate for boosting one’s memory in old age. In other words, people didn’t reap greater cognitive benefits if they increased how vigorously they exercised in middle age. 

The report was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The results are in accordance with the findings of other studies that highlight the benefits of exercise. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in May 2015 found that older men who exercise 30 minutes a day live an average of five years longer than those who don’t. Other previous studies have found that getting fit in middle age also can reduce your risk for heart failure.

Excuse us while we head out to the gym.

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