There’s no question that exercise is good for the body, and there is growing evidence that staying physically active can help slow the normal declines in brain function that come with age. Health groups recommend that adults try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense activity a week to keep their hearts healthy — but is that the same amount that’s needed to keep the brain sharp?
In a new study published in the journal Neurology, researchers led by Joyce Gomes-Osman, an assistant professor in physical therapy and neurology at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, set out to find an exercise prescription for the brain. She and her colleagues scanned nearly 100 existing studies that connected exercise with more than 122 different tests of brain function. Based on data that included more than 11,000 older people, they found that people who exercised about 52 hours over a period of about six months showed the biggest improvements in various thinking and speed tests. On average, people exercised for about an hour, three times a week. And the effect applied to both people without cognitive decline as well as those with mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
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