Playing golf, walking and Nordic walking bring about an immediate and significant improvement in cognitive function in older people. As the global burden of natural age-related cognitive decline continues to increase, the activities mentioned could represent an effective way of prevention.
A recent study involving experts from the University of Eastern Finland examined the acute effects of age-appropriate, cognitively demanding aerobic exercise on cognitive functions and so-called exerkinetic responses in older, healthy individuals. The results are published in the specialist magazine “BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine”.
How does aerobic exercise affect cognition?
A total of 25 healthy golf-playing people who were at least 65 years old took part in the new study. Participants were instructed to complete various acute aerobic exercises.
Which exercises were completed?
These exercises consisted of either playing an 18-hole round of golf, completing a six-kilometer Nordic walking route, or a normal six-kilometer walk. According to the researchers, each of the exercises was carried out in a real environment.
Effects on cognition measured
The team analyzed the immediate effects of these three aerobic exercises on cognition and determined what biological responses were associated with them. To do this, the researchers used the so-called Trail-Making Test (TMT) A and B. This is a proven instrument for assessing cognitive function in older adults.
Experts use the TMT-A test to measure lower cognitive functions, such as attention and processing speed. In contrast, the TMT-B test was used to measure more sophisticated executive functions, such as the ability to switch between tasks.
Blood samples from the participants were evaluated
In addition, the researchers also took blood samples from the participants. They were used to measure the levels of derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) and cathepsin B (CTSB) in the brain. According to the team, both neurotrophic factors and cathepsin B are thought to reflect the positive effects of exercise on the brain.
In addition, each of the participants wore a special fitness measuring device that recorded data specific to the sports exercises. These included, for example, distance, duration, speed, energy consumption and the number of steps taken. At the same time, an ECG sensor with a chest strap was used to monitor the participants’ heart rate.
Even a single aerobic activity improves cognition
The experts found that just a single session of one of the three sports activities examined was enough to improve cognitive functions measured by the TMT-A test. However, no significant effects on the levels of BDNF and CTSB could be observed.
In addition, it was shown that Nordic walking and regular walks were associated with an improvement in executive functions measured in the TMT-B test, the researchers added in a press release.
- Walking has a positive effect on our brain
- An 11-minute walk a day could prevent one in 10 deaths
- Walks in nature reduce stress and increase well-being
- Nordic walking has many health benefits
- Nordic walking improves quality of life and relieves depression
Move more in everyday life
The results of the study show that aerobic exercises such as golf, Nordic walking and walking improve certain cognitive functions. Nordic walking and walks also seem to have a positive influence on executive functions.
This makes it clear how effective exercise and aerobic sports activities are in counteracting natural age-related cognitive decline. It therefore makes sense for most people to do more sport or exercise more in order to continue to benefit from their full cognitive abilities as they get older. (as)