We’ve probably heard this at least once in our lives, how adults of all ages should move more as well as engage in regular exercise and sit less. This has been said to make people feel better and also reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
However, a new study on brain and cognition from Colorado State University that involved older adults suggests that some degree of a sedentary lifestyle isn’t so bad after all. This applies so long as the basic physical activity standards are being achieved. This research looked into the association between cognitive performance and sensor-measured physical activity in a sample of 228 healthy individuals, all aged 60 to 80.
This research from Aga Burzynska, assistant professor in the CSU Department of Human Development and Family Studies was published in Psychology and Aging. The results showed that adults who took part in activity ranging from moderate to vigorous had better reasoning abilities, memory and speed. The data also revealed that individuals who were more sedentary performed better on reasoning and vocabulary tasks.
According to Burzynska, the association between improved cardiovascular and metabolic health and increased physical activity is well documented. However, in older adults, the link between cognitive health and various physical activities that take place daily is less understood.
We all know that as we grow older, people tend to show some decrease in memory, executive functioning or speed, especially for those aged 60 and above. These decreases shouldn’t alarm you as they are normal for that age. Burzynska stated that the study was focused on understanding how our habits and behaviors may correspond with cognitive outcomes in our old age.
The researchers used scientifically validated sensors to measure daily physical activity and also administered a broad assessment that tested on 16 cognitive tasks. Additionally, they also controlled and measured for health and socioeconomic factors such as income level, employment status, mobility issues, blood pressure and aerobic fitness.
The cognitive assessment asked participants to identify shapes, fill-in-the-blanks and select patterns among many other tasks. The results collected helped the researchers to measure if there was a correlation between fluid vs. crystallized cognition and physical activity. While these “fluid” abilities such as reasoning skills, problem solving and speed and memory decline throughout adulthood, participants in the study who took part in various physical activities ranging from moderate to vigorous were found to perform better on fluid tasks. This suggests that exercise might keep at bay some of the normal effects of brain aging.
It should be noted that most participants involved in the study did not spend a lot of time engaging in physical activity, with many spending less than 2.7% of their time taking part in various activities. These adults who spent more hours seated each day performed better in knowledge-based tasks such as reading comprehension and vocabulary tests. These “crystallized” abilities, researchers note, tend to strengthen as adults grew older and acquired more experience and knowledge.
Burzynska states that the study backs the recommendations by health experts that regular exercise is good for one’s health. However, for older adults who might find it hard to be physically active, taking part in cognitively demanding tasks is an option.
Older people face lots of health complications and many biomedical companies have risen to the challenge. One interesting company you should watch is DarioHealth Corp. (NASDAQ: DRIO). It focuses on availing personalized chronic disease management using smartphone-based software.
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