People in the oldest stage of life who regularly engage in aerobic activities and strength training exercises perform better on cognitive tests than those who are either sedentary or participate only in aerobic exercise.
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That is the key finding of a new study, published in the journal GeroScience.
Brian Ho and Ronald Cohen assessed 184 cognitively healthy people ranging in age from 85 to 99.
Each participant reported their exercise habits and underwent a comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests that were designed to evaluate various dimensions of cognitive function.
"We found that those who incorporated both aerobic exercises, such as swimming and cycling, and strength exercises like weightlifting into their routines regardless of intensity and duration had better mental agility, quicker thinking and greater ability to shift or adapt their thinking.
Using a well-known cognitive screening tool called the Montreal Cognitive Assessment that provides a balanced view of many aspects of cognition, we found that people who didn't engage in any physical exercise scored lower than those who did both cardio and strength training.
"This difference was slight but significant even when controlling for other factors like education and how much people exercised. In addition, the group that did both types of exercises did better in specific cognitive activities, like symbol coding, beyond just the screening results.
It's important to note that while our study establishes a correlation between a mix of aerobic and strength training exercises and higher cognitive test scores, the design of the study did not enable us to determine a causal relationship." ■
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