A meta-analysis in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has underlined how important exercise is for brain power in the over 50s (that’s me!)
Looking at the results of 39 papers: “The effect of exercise on cognition was statistically significant for all domains, except global cognition.”
In other words, exercise may not actually make you smarter, but it will help preserve brain function
Resistance training (with weights or exercise bands) was good for executive function (organising oneself to achieve a goal, using skills of mental control and self-regulation), memory and working memory (temporarily holding information available for processing).
Tai Chi seems to do well too. Although there are not very many studies, it seems to help working memory.
The more often you exercise, the better results you get. Intensity and duration is apparently less important (even though that does seem surprising).
Overall: “The findings suggest that exercise programme with components of both aerobic and resistance type training, of at least moderate intensity and at least 45 minutes per session, on as many days of the week as possible, is beneficial for cognitive function in adults aged over 50.”
Those who are more socially active, and those doing the ‘sham exercise’ of stretching, have almost as good results as exercisers. In fact, the researchers say “the effect size was still positive but no longer statistically significant”. What they actually mean here is that, scientifically speaking, there is no difference between exercisers and the socially active, or even those doing stretching.
I’m going to recommend James Thompson’s blog if you want more details but feel that reading the original paper is too challenging for you. He explains much of the science-ey stuff very clearly, even if he summarises the paper as something “which might provoke some people to walk about a bit, which is no problem so long as they do not clog up the traffic.”
As someone aged over 50 who lives just behind Oxford Circus, I know that shoppers, tourists, and (only this last is understandable / excusable) those pushing a pram, or just out of their pram are much more of a bother to other pedestrians than me!
But pity poor Mr Thompson. Has no-one told him that he’s getting older every single day?