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Improve your brain power with exercise

April 3, 2013

It almost goes without saying that exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors. Physical activity offers numerous benefits, from reducing pain and discomfort caused by arthritis to lowering the chances of suffering a fall. Now, new research from the University of California, San Francisco, suggests you may be able to improve your cognitive function by combining exercise with mental activity.

The findings, which were published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine, are based on a group of more than 125 adults in their 70s who had cognitive complaints and were largely inactive at the beginning of the study. Each of the participants was placed in one of four groups that offered varying levels of mental and physical activities. Over the course of 12 weeks, researchers noticed that regardless of which group they were in, whether they practiced aerobic exercise or strength and toning activities, the subjects enjoyed an improvement in cognitive performance.

"Just doing something may be more important than exactly what they're doing," lead author Deborah Barnes told NBC News.

Researchers have made similar discoveries in recent years, and taken together the findings could be a breakthrough for memory care. In 2012, for instance, a study performed by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that even something as simple as a daily walk or jog could drastically lower your risk of developing Alzheimer's or dementia later in life. 

Regardless of what your exercise of choice is, the benefits are clear, and it's one of the most effective ways to maintain your independence, notes the National Institutes of Health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults 65 and older get approximately 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week.