Exercise for heart may also be good for brain
It turns out that aerobic exercise may do a lot more than make your heart healthy. A study at the University of Montreal suggests that it also can help keep a person's brain sharp.
As we age, the arteries in our body stiffen, which likely starts with the aorta – the main vessel coming out of the heart, before reaching the brain. The researchers believe the hardening may contribute to the decline in cognitive skills in older adults.
The scientists looked at physically and mentally healthy participants, 31 younger people aged 18 to 31, and 54 older adults aged 55 to 75. All underwent physical and mental tests. For the physical tests, they worked out on machines while the researchers measured their maximum oxygen intake over 30-second periods. For the mental test, they performed a Stroop effect test, which measures cognitive ability. The Stroop tests involves showing the participants the names of different colors, with each word printed in a color that is not the color meant by the word. For instance, red might be printed in blue. The participants had to shout out the actual color of the print, not the printed word. They also underwent MRI scans.
The researchers found that the older adults whose aortas were in better condition, and who were aerobically fitter, did better on the cognitive tests. They say the preservation of vessel elasticity may help exercise to slow down cognitive aging.