Walking can improve memory performance
Researchers have determined that moderate-intensity exercise that includes brisk walking may have the most beneficial impact on memory performance.
The findings indicate that individuals do not need to engage in highly strenuous exercise to achieve dramatic long-term memory improvements, as moderate exercise could have a more positive impact.
This research could be significant for the development of strategies to protect memory in later life, particularly for the treatment of individuals with memory deficiencies. The memory-enhancing exercise guidelines could also give students a boost writing exams or even help people with daily tasks that include remembering grocery list items.
The researchers concluded that different intensities of exercise, or various types of rest, could directly affect an individual’s recognition memory test performance.
The study suggests that it’s not important to try too hard to achieve dramatic cognitive improvements. Establishing clear guidelines for improving memory through moderate-intensity exercise such as walking could not only help support people with memory deficits, but also benefit society, workplace, and school initiatives.
Walking improves brain connectivity and memory in older individuals
Another study shows that walking strengthens 3 brain network connections, including a network linked to Alzheimer’s disease, adding to the growing evidence that brain health improves with exercise.
The study looked at the brain’s memory capabilities in older individuals who had normal brain function and in individuals with mild cognitive impairment, a decline in mental abilities that includes judgment, reasoning and memory.
The brain networks examined in this research reveal deterioration over time in individuals with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. individuals become disconnected and subsequently lose the ability to remember things and think clearly. This research shows that these connections are strengthened with exercises like walking.
The research builds on previous research, which showed how walking could improve brain function and reduce cerebral blood flow in older individuals who had mild cognitive impairment.
33 individuals aged 71 to 85 were monitored as they walked on a treadmill 4 days a week for 12 weeks. Individuals were asked to read a short story which was then repeated aloud in as much detail as possible before and after the exercise routine.
Functional MRI was also performed on individuals so that communication changes within and between the 3 brain networks that control cognitive function could be measured:
The network is by default connected to the hippocampus, one of the first areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s, and is activated when an individual is not engaged in a specific task such as daydreaming about a shopping list. It’s also where Alzheimer’s disease and amyloid plaques show up on tests.
The frontoparietal network involves memory and regulates decision making when an individual is completing a task.
The saliency network facilitates switching between networks for performance optimization and monitors the outside world and stimuli to decide what deserves attention.
The tests were repeated after 12 weeks of walking and significant improvements were observed in the individuals’ ability to recall stories.
Brain activity was more synchronized and stronger, showing that exercise can induce the brain’s ability to adapt and change. The findings provide even more hope that exercise such as walking may be useful as a method to prevent or help stabilize people with mild cognitive impairment and perhaps, in the long term, delay transformation into Alzheimer’s-related dementia.
Stronger activity was observed within the default mode and saliency network and also within connections within the 3 networks.
Walking could prevent brain shrinkage in older adults
According to another study, older individuals who walk regularly may have larger brains than inactive individuals. The effects of exercise were equivalent to 4 fewer years of brain aging.
Researchers have made use of MRI scans to measure the brains of individuals with activity levels ranging from inactive to highly active. The scans confirmed that the less active individuals had smaller brain volumes.
Other studies have shown that the risk of age-related cognitive decline and dementia could be reduced with physical activity. This study used brain scans to measure individuals’ brain volumes and found that individuals engaged in the 3rd highest level of physical activity had brain volumes that were 4 years younger in brain aging than individuals in the 3rd highest level of physical activity. lower activity level.
The study included 1,557 dementia-free individuals with an average age of 75, including 296 with mild cognitive impairment and 28% with the APOE gene associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s.
The individuals underwent memory and thinking tests as well as physical exams and were questioned about their daily tasks and other physical activities. It was then calculated how much energy and time each individual allocated to those tasks and activities.
Individuals were divided into 3 groups: inactive individuals; fairly active individuals, which meant they had approximately 2.5 hours of low-intensity physical activity each week, 1.5 hours of moderate physical activity each week, or 1 hour of high-intensity physical activity each week; and more active individuals, which meant they had 7 hours of low-intensity physical activity each week, 4 hours of moderate physical activity each week, or 2 hours of high-intensity physical activity each week.
All MRI brain scans of the individuals were then reviewed and it was found that, compared to inactive individuals, the more active individuals had greater total brain volume.
After adjusting for APOE gene status, gender, age, education, and ethnicity/race, the mean brain size for inactive individuals was 871 cubic cm compared with 883 cubic cm for the most active individuals , a difference of 12 cubic cm, or 1.4%, or nearly 4 years of brain aging. These results remained similar even after individuals with mild cognitive impairment were excluded.
The findings strengthen the evidence that participation in greater physical activity is associated with greater brain volume. It’s also based on evidence that staying active more often throughout life could help prevent brain shrinkage.
One limitation of the study was that information about physical activity was based on an individual’s ability to remember how long and how often they were active. Due to the study design, it does not demonstrate that brain shrinkage is prevented by exercise; it only shows one connection.
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