Sport also keeps older people mentally fit

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Exercise improves memory

Over 60-year-olds who exercise regularly are superior to their inactive peers when it comes to solving problems, computing tasks and memory. This is the interim result of a longitudinal study that examines the relationship between cognitive skills and endurance sports in older people.

Those who play sports stay mentally fit longer
"Regular, comprehensive endurance training should be useful for maintaining cognitive abilities," says study director Robert Winker from the Health and Prevention Center of the City of Vienna's Employees' Healthcare Institution (KFA) when presenting the results in Kaprun. The scientists examined more than 50 over 60 -year-old marathon runners and cyclists as well as peers in a control group who did no sport.

As it turned out, the cognitive abilities of the sporty seniors were clearly superior to those of the control group. Winker reports that the athletes overtook the inactive seniors when it came to solving problems as well as arithmetic tasks and memory. The athletic study participants did better than the inactive subjects, especially when planning and performing tasks. "We are interested in how memory performance has changed over time," reports the doctor. After the examinations started five years ago, another test is currently underway to examine cognitive abilities over a longer period of time. that these skills deteriorate less in old age than inactive seniors, and endurance sports may also have a positive impact on Alzheimer's disease.

Regular exercise increases brain volume
Last year, researchers led by Krik Erickson from the University of Pittsburgh presented their study results in the science magazine "PNAS". According to this, simple but regular movements should enlarge the brain and increase performance. The researchers see this as an opportunity, especially for older people, to prevent aging diseases such as dementia or diabetes.

The active movement particularly stimulates the hippocampus, which has a major impact on memory. The hippocampus belongs to the middle arch of the so-called Limbic system. This area shrinks with age. The volume decreases by about one to two percent per year. The result is a relative reduction in the processes of thinking and remembering. The risk of dementia increases with age. According to Erickson, light but regular sports exercises should slow down or even stop the hippocampus weight loss process and increase brain performance again. (sb)

Also read:
Promote mental fitness through a strict diet
Belly fat reduces mental performance
60-year-olds are often fitter than young people
Myths and facts: what helps against Alzheimer's?

Photo credit: Rainer Sturm /

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