Doing 52 hours of exercise over a six-month period could help to prevent mental decline among older people who are more active.
A new review shows that older people who participated in this amount of exercise over six months may be able to reverse any existing mental decline. This works out as performing about an hour of activity three times a week.
The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center research team, based in Bosto, US, say this is the first time conclusive evidence has put a specific length of time on exercising helping to boost the function of the mind.
Preserving good mental function has a close relevance to diabetes as people who struggle with diabetes control tend to have an increased risk of developing problems with mental ability such as dementia.
Having looked at 98 studies, involving more than 11,000 people, the scientists focused on data relating to concentration and problem solving. They found significant improvements were made among the over-60s who engaged in regular exercise. These results were also consistent in those who had dementia.
From studying the series of studies, the researchers said it did not matter what activity was carried out, nor how long it was carried out in each session, providing the total amounted to 52 hours across six months.
Lead author Dr Joyce Gomes-Osman said: “Processing speed and executive function are among the first to go when you’re ageing. This is evidence that you can literally turn back the clock on ageing by maintaining a regular exercise regime.”
Current NHS guidelines state adults aged between 19-64 should ensure they are active on a daily basis, carrying out at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate aerobic activity, such as cycling or brisk walking, every week.
The research here suggests that achieving more activity than this, three hours per week, could have additional benefit in terms of reducing mental decline. This might help reduce the risk of dementia, although this would need to be studied separately.
The authors concluded: “We found that exercising for at least 52 hours is associated with improved cognitive performance in older adults with and without cognitive impairment. Exercise modes supported by evidence are aerobic, resistance (strength) training, mind-body exercises, or combinations of these interventions.”
The research has been published in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice.

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