Exercise & Fitness for Senior Citizens
Seniors with healthy hearts, strong
lungs have better memory, cognitive ability
Senior citizens with best
cardiorespiratory fitness do as well as younger adults in executive
2, 2015 – Older adults up to age 82 with a good heart and healthy lungs
also have better brains for the recall of memory and general cognitive
capability. The most fit senior citizens in this study performed as well
as younger adults in testing of executive functions.
The research from Boston
University, which appears online in the Journal of Gerontology,
examines the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF),
memory and cognition in young and older adults.
Aging is associated with decline in
executive function (problem solving, planning and organizing) and
long-term memory for events. CRF has been associated with enhanced
executive function in older adults, but the researchers found the
relationship with long-term memory still unclear in previous studies.
They decided to compare 33 young
adults (age 18-31) and 27 older adults (age 55-82) with a wide range of
cardiorespiratory levels. Participants completed exercise testing to
evaluate their cardiorespiratory function and neuropsychological testing
to assess their memory, planning and problem-solving abilities.
In addition to standardized
neuropsychological tasks of executive function and long-term memory,
participants engaged in a laboratory task in which they had to learn
They found the following.
● Older adults with higher
cardiorespiratory levels – the most fit - performed as well as young
adults on executive function measures.
● Young adults performed better
on long-term memory measures, than older high fit adults, who in turn
performed better than low fit older adults.
● In older adults, better
physical fitness level was associated with improved executive function,
● In young adults, fitness had
no effect on their memory or executive functions.
These findings demonstrate that the
effect of CRF is not limited to executive function, but also extends to
long-term memory, according to the researchers .
"Our findings that CRF may mitigate
age-related cognitive decline is appealing for a variety of reasons,
including that aerobic activities to enhance CRF (walking, dancing, etc)
are inexpensive, accessible and could potentially improve quality of
life by delaying cognitive decline and prolonging independent function,"
explained corresponding author Scott Haynes, PhD, assistant professor of
psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and the Associate
Director of the Neuroimaging Research for Veterans Center at the VA
Boston Healthcare System.
"More research is needed to explore
the specific mechanism of how physical fitness enhances brain structure
and function as well as to clarify the impact of specific exercise
programs (i.e. strength, aerobic or combined training) or dose of
exercise (frequency, intensity, duration) on a range of cognitive
functions," he added.
This study was supported by the
Department of Veterans Affairs, Rehabilitation Research & Development
Service and Clinical Science Research & Development Service [MV].
Assistance with participant recruitment was provided by the
Massachusetts Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and Boston University
Alzheimer's Disease Center.
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