Exercise for the Brain
Researchers in the UK compared the effect that different types of daily movement had on overall cognition, memory and executive function. Their study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, reported that replacing sitting, sleeping or gentle movement with less than 10 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity (brisk walking, bicycling, running up and down stairs, aerobic dancing, jogging, running or swimming) can protect the brain and improve working memory and executive processes like planning and organization. The intensity of the exercise matters, and study participants that engaged in light physical activity, rather than more vigorous activity, saw declines in cognitive performance. However, light activity is still more beneficial than sitting, the scientists found.
The data for these findings was taken from the 1970 British Cohort Study, an ongoing survey that tracks the health of a group of UK-born adults. The group of nearly 4,500 participants consented, at age 46, to wear an activity tracker and complete verbal memory and executive functioning tests, and they were followed from 2016 to 2018.