Aerobic Exercise Tied to Better Cognition at All Ages

Effect seen as young as 20 years, although the effect is greater with increasing age

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 30, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Aerobic exercise contributes to brain health in individuals as young as 20 years, according to a study published online Jan. 30 in Neurology.

Yaakov Stern, Ph.D., from Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues randomly assigned 132 cognitively normal adults (aged 20 to 67 years) with below median aerobic capacity to either six-month, four-times-weekly aerobic exercise or stretching/toning.

The researchers found that aerobic capacity increased significantly and body mass index decreased significantly in the aerobic exercise group but not in the stretching/toning group. In the aerobic exercise group, executive function improved significantly, with the effect moderated by age. The executive function measure increased by 0.228 standard deviation at age 40 and by 0.596 standard deviation at age 60. The aerobic exercise group had significant increases in cortical thickness in a left frontal region, with no interaction with age. Individuals with at least one APOE ε4 allele showed less improvement in executive function with aerobic exercise after controlling for age and baseline performance.

"The effect of aerobic exercise on executive function was more pronounced as age increased, suggesting that it may mitigate age-related declines," the authors write.

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