Jogging your memory

By | Health & Wellness
Cardiovascular exercises undertaken during your twenties has been shown to impact the quality of memory, reports a twenty five year long study. credit image @ Ronnie Macdonald, flickr.com

Summer’s on the way, and so is the plethora of joggers that make good use of the warm weather and extra sunshine. Jogging and running have long been heralded as an efficient way of staying healthy, particularly in regards to heart health.

This aerobic endurance fitness has been noted to reduce the effects of aging and the chance of developing various cancers, whilst the increased heart rate at which the exercise is performed means the cardiovascular system is kept in prime condition, with the entire exercise an aid in reducing obesity.

However, novel research has demonstrated some additional benefits of jogging in the younger generation.

According to the research, young adults that partake in regular cardiovascular exercise, like running, may show higher preservation of memory and thinking skills once they reach middle age. The paper, published in the scientific journal Neurology, was written by several specialists from various health institutes and universities across the United States as well as Norway.

They wanted to assess the link between cardiovascular exercise and cognitive function after a period of 25 years.

Of course, cardio fitness spreads across a large range of sports, including aerobics, swimming and cycling, for example, and is defined as the potential for the heart and lungs to take in and use oxygen for the energy-intensive muscles at work, allowing them to work over a sustained period of time.

The researchers looked at 2,747 participants, of each sex and several nationalities, between the ages of 18 and 30 back in 1985 to 1986, which acted as the baseline (year zero) for this experiment.

The test subjects were asked to run on a treadmill for as long as possible until they reached a point when shortness of breath or exhaustion took hold. During this time, the speed and the incline increased, facilitating these symptoms.

This test was undertaken at year zero and again at year twenty.

Finally, during year 25 of the study, cognitive tests were performed using the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, which examined verbal memory, Digit Symbol Substitution Test, which looked at the relationship between cognitive function and physical movement (psychomotor speed), as well as Stroop Test, which analyzes any interference in the reaction time when performing a task.

The average treadmill time was ten minutes at year zero, which subsequently decreased by an average of 2.9 minutes when the test was repeated two decades later.

Interestingly, for every extra minute the participants stayed on the treadmill during the first test, the test subjects were able to remember more words in a 15 word memory test 25 years later, and often outperformed those with lower treadmill times in the other cognitive experiments.

In addition, those that showed smaller time differences between each treadmill test performed much better on the Stroop Test, where colored words are shown and the participants have to state the ink color, instead of the word itself (i.e. if they were shown the word ‘RED’ in the blue ink, the correct answer is blue).

Importantly, the researchers were able to demonstrate that better verbal memory and psychomotor speeds were definitely associated to cardiovascular fitness, even a quarter of a century later.

“This is one more important study that should remind young adults of the brain health benefits of cardio fitness activities such as running, swimming, biking or cardio fitness classes,” said Dr. David R. Jacobs, co-author of the study, speaking to the news release of the paper.

In addition, scientists could use the information gained from the tests performed in the paper to identify people who have the potential to develop neurological conditions like dementia, said Dr. Jacobs, which would allow faster and better treatment.

Thus, starting a healthy lifestyle early on in life, whether through nutrition or exercise, allows individuals to reap the rewards of their hard work and dedication later on in life, through a healthier body and mind.

How would you incorporate cardiovascular exercise in your lifestyle? 

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