Summary: According to researchers, older people who participate in short burst of physical activity, at any intensity, experience a boost in brain health.
Source: University of Western Ontario.
Older adults who engage in short bursts of physical activity can experience a boost in brain health even if the activity is carried out at a reasonably low intensity, according to a new Western study.
Researchers from School of Kinesiology and Graduate Program in Neuroscience have demonstrated that bouts of aerobic exercise, as brief as 10 minutes, enhances cognitive function of older adults. They also found that these benefits could be realized by those previously encouraged not to exercise.
The study, which included 17 older adults with an average age of 73, put participants through aerobic tests at moderate, heavy and very heavy levels of exercise intensity, and had them complete a pre- and post-exercise task to measure executive function.
The key finding of the study was that the boost in executive function was experienced by subjects at a variety of levels of exercise intensity.
“These results suggest that people limited to moderate levels of exercise intensity may experience similar cognitive benefits by simply being active for as little as 10 minutes,” said Kinesiology professor Matthew Heath, the study’s senior author.
The study also identified that the post-exercise boost to cognitive function was not limited to participants with high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness.
“Discovering that the executive benefit of exercise can be experienced across the spectrum of exercise intensity, and also by people of all fitness levels, showcases how impactful exercise can be,” said Heath, a member of Western’s Brain and Mind Institute. “And the fact that the cognitive benefits of exercise can be realized almost immediately could increase the likelihood of people engaging in physical activity.”
Source: University of Western Ontario
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Original Research: Abstract for “Older adults elicit a single-bout post-exercise executive benefit across a continuum of aerobically supported metabolic intensities” by Andrea F. M. Petrella, Glen Belfry, and Matthew Heath in Brain Research. Published March 1 2019.
Older adults elicit a single-bout post-exercise executive benefit across a continuum of aerobically supported metabolic intensities
Ten minutes of aerobic or resistance training can ‘boost’ executive function in older adults. Here, we examined whether the magnitude of the exercise benefit is influenced by exercise intensity. Older adults (N = 17: mean age = 73 years) completed a volitional test to exhaustion (VO2peak) via treadmill to determine participant-specific moderate (80% of lactate threshold (LT)), heavy (15% of the difference between LT and VO2peak) and very-heavy (50% of the difference between LT and VO2peak) exercise intensities. Subsequently, in separate sessions all participants completed 10-min constant load single-bouts of exercise at each intensity. Pre- and post-exercise executive function were examined via the antisaccade task. Antisaccades require a saccade mirror-symmetrical to a target and extensive evidence has shown that antisaccades are supported via frontoparietal networks that demonstrate task-dependent changes following single-bout and chronic exercise. We also included a non-executive task (saccade to veridical target location; i.e., prosaccade) to determine whether a putative post-exercise benefit is specific to executive-related oculomotor control. Results showed that VO2 and psychological ratings of perceived exertion concurrently increased with increasing exercise intensity. As well, antisaccade reaction times showed a 24 ms (i.e., 8%) reduction from pre- to post-exercise assessments (p < .001), whereas prosaccade values did not (p = .19). Most notably, the post-exercise change in antisaccade RTs did not reliably vary with exercise intensity. Further, for each exercise intensity participants’ cardiorespiratory fitness level was unrelated to the magnitude of the post-exercise executive benefit (ps > .13). Accordingly, an exercise duration as brief as 10-min provides a selective benefit to executive function in older adults across the continuum of moderate to very-heavy intensities.