Middle-aged and older people who lack exercise improve cognitive function by aerobic exercise for half a year

Sep 24 - 2020

Middle-aged and older people who lack exercise improve cognitive function by aerobic exercise for half a year

A study conducted in Canada revealed that middle-aged and older people who do not usually exercise often improve some cognitive function by continuing 20-40 minutes of aerobic exercise four days a week for half a year. It was.

Does exercise improve cerebral blood flow and enhance cognitive function?

Exercise has been shown to bring various benefits to middle-aged and older people, including brain health. Specifically, it has been shown to have a positive effect on cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and executive function (the ability to set goals, set up and execute), and cerebral blood flow.

Several studies have already examined the relationship between exercise and cerebral blood flow, but so far, long-term regular aerobic exercise affects cerebral blood flow regulation and cognitive function. The impact was not investigated. Therefore, researchers at the University of Calgary, Canada, decided to train healthy adults who rarely exercise for six months to investigate their effects on cognitive function.

The subjects were middle-aged and older men and women living in Calgary, Canada, who do not exercise much, are healthy and have normal cognitive function. Researchers have selected people who meet the following conditions: (1) BMI (body mass index) less than 35 (* 30 or more are obese by international definition) (2) 20 or more steps without help Can go up and down (3) No history of cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease, type 1 diabetes, respiratory disease, neurological disease, cognitive dysfunction (4) No smoking for over a year, major surgery or No experience of major trauma (5) Family doctor allows participation in the study. For exercise habits, the condition is "exercise up to medium intensity for 30 minutes or less per day, frequency up to 4 days a week" or "exercise at high intensity for 20 minutes or less per day, up to 1-2 times a week". We have registered 286 people who meet all the conditions.

Cognitive and cerebrovascular function were evaluated six months before the start of aerobic exercise training, immediately before the start, and three times after the end of the six-month training. We also measured maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), an indicator of cardiopulmonary function.

Cognitive function was evaluated for items such as processing speed, executive function, language memory, graphic memory, language fluency, and attention. One of the reasons for the two assessments before the start of training is that multiple cognitive tests can improve your score as you get used to it. By conducting the evaluation twice, the authors identified in advance the items that are likely to be affected by the examination habituation. Cerebrovascular function was evaluated by transcranial ultrasonic Doppler examination, in which an ultrasonic probe was applied over the skull.

The aerobic exercise program was held three days a week at the University of Calgary. We warmed up for 5 minutes before aerobic exercise and cooled down and stretched for 5 minutes after exercise. The time for aerobic exercise [Note 1] was initially 20 minutes and extended to a maximum of 40 minutes. Exercise intensity started at a level of 30-45% of VO2max based on the person's preliminary heart rate and gradually increased to 60-70%. In addition, during the training period, I instructed to do aerobic exercise at home once a week as planned, and asked to keep a record of this practice and other voluntary exercises in the diary. did.

Part of cognitive function and cerebral blood flow regulation function improved in half a year

206 people completed 6 months of training (mean age 65.9 years, 51% female). Cardiopulmonary function, which is indexed by VO2max, declined during the 6 months from 6 months before the start of training to just before the start of training. This suggests that the participants did not do enough aerobic exercise during that time. In contrast, a comparison of just before training and after training showed improved cardiopulmonary function and that training was effective.

Comparing cognitive functions before and after training, processing speed, concept formation [Note 2], language memory, and language fluency scores in executive function were significantly improved after training. Of these, processing speed and language memory were excluded from subsequent analysis because they were expected to be affected by familiarity with the test. Examination of the relationship between remaining concept formation, improved language fluency, and 6-month aerobic exercise revealed that all of these were significantly associated with improved cerebral blood flow regulation before and after training. became.

Six months of aerobic exercise increased cardiopulmonary function and improved cerebral blood flow regulation and some of its associated cognitive functions. This suggests that even middle-aged and elderly people who are not actively exercising may be able to prevent the decline in cognitive function due to normal aging and expect further improvement if they continue aerobic exercise. doing.