Older, heavier people who move their muscles may also be helping their brains.
Researchers studied 107 frail, obese, sedentary older people in the St. Louis area. (“Frail” meant that they had low scores on physical performance and fitness tests or had trouble with daily activities.) Participants were assigned to one of four groups:
• The “diet” group got advice and goals for cutting 500 to 750 calories a day.
• The “exercise” group did 30 minutes of aerobics, 30 minutes of strength training, 15 minutes of flexibility, and 15 minutes of balance exercise three times a week.
• The “diet-plus-exercise” group got both interventions.
• The “control” group got general advice about healthy eating.
After one year, only the diet-plus-exercise group improved more than the control group on two tests of attention, executive function, and other thinking skills. Both the exercise and diet-plus-exercise groups (but not the diet group) improved on a word fluency test more than the control group. None of the groups improved on depression scores.
What’s more, the diet and diet-plus-exercise groups each lost about 20 pounds, and both lost visceral (deep belly) fat. The exercise group lost no weight or visceral fat.
What to do: Get moving, no matter your age or size. In animals, exercise can stimulate nerve cells and blood vessels to grow. If you want to lose weight, cutting calories is crucial.
Source: Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2014. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.082883.
Other relevant links:
- Don’t rely on antioxidant and B vitamin supplements to keep your memory intact. See: Antioxidant and B vitamin supplements for your brain
- Participate in a physical activity program to cut your risk of major mobile disabilities by 18%. See: Exercise for Health: Staying Active Can Preserve Mobility in Older Adults
- Are resveratrol supplements effective in adding years to your life? See: Can a Dietary Supplement Like Resveratrol Add Years to Your Life?