Older adults can improve brain function by raising their fitness level, according to a recent study.

The study was conducted at the University of Kansas (KU) Medical Center and further suggests that the intensity of the exercise appeared to matter more than the duration.

According to a university news release, the 6-month trial was led by Jeffrey Burns, MD, professor of neurology and co-director of the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center. The study encompassed healthy adults aged 65 years and older who showed no signs of cognitive decline.

The release notes that the randomized trial was designed to pinpoint the ideal amount of exercise needed to achieve benefits to the brain. Trial participants were organized in a control group that did not have monitored exercise, or into one of three other groups. One group moderately exercised for the recommended amount of 150 minutes per week, a second exercised for 75 minutes per week, and a third group exercised for 225 minutes per week.

The results indicate that all groups who exercised saw some benefit, and those who exercised more saw more benefits, particularly in improved visual-spatial processing. Participants who exercised also exhibited an increase in overall attention levels and the ability to focus.

Burns points out that basically, “the more exercise you did, the more benefit to the brain you saw. Any aerobic exercise was good, and more is better.”

Eric Vidoni, PT, PhD, research associate professor of neurology at KU Medical Center and lead author of the journal article, adds that to achieve improved brain function, the study’s findings suggest, “that it’s not enough just to exercise more. You have to do it in a way that bumps up your overall fitness level.”

Scientists at the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center, the release says, for years have focused on the link between exercise and brain metabolism and are conducting a number of research studies focused on how exercise may help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.

[Source: University of Kansas Medical Center]