A recent study suggests that older adults with greater cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) also have improved memory recall and cognitive capabilities. During the study, according a news release from Boston University Medical Center, the researchers compared 33 young adults (aged 18 to 31 years old) to 27 older adults (aged 55 to 82 years old) with a variety of cardiorespiratory levels.

The study sought to investigate the link between CRF, memory, and cognition in young and older adults.

The release reports that participants completed exercise testing in order to evaluate their cardiorespiratory function and neuropsychological testing to assess their memory, planning, and problem-solving abilities. In addition to the standardized neuropsychological tasks of executive function and long-term memory, the release notes that participants engaged in a laboratory task in which they were required to learn face-name associations.

The results indicate that older adults with higher cardiorespiratory levels performed as well as young adults on executive function measures. On long-term memory measures, young adults performed better than older high-fit adults, the release says, who then performed better than low-fit older adults. Researchers point out that in older adults, a better physical fitness level was linked to improved executive function and memory. In young adults, fitness reportedly exhibited no impact on memory or executive function.

Scott Haynes, PhD, corresponding author, 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, explains that the researchers’ “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.”

Haynes adds that more research is needed to explore the specific mechanism of how physical fitness enhances brain structure and function, and to clarify the impact of specific exercise programs.

[Source(s): EurekAlert, Boston University Medical Center]