People perform better in mental tests at the age of 50 if they have engaged in regular intense activity, such as playing sport, running, swimming or working out in the gym, since childhood, UK researchers have found.
Levels of exercise in more than 9,000 people were examined at the ages of 11, 16, 33, 42, 46 and 50.
Interviews were conducted at regular age intervals to monitor levels of exercise. Participants also undertook tests of memory, attention and learning, The Telegraph reported.
People who had exercised two to three times per month or more from the age of 11 scored higher in the tests than those who had not.
“As exercise represents a key component of lifestyle interventions to prevent cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, public health interventions to promote lifelong exercise have the potential to reduce the personal and social burden associated with these conditions in late adult years,” study leader Dr Alex Dregan, from King’s College London, said.
“It’s widely acknowledged that a healthy body equals a healthy mind. However, not everyone is willing or able to take part in the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week,” Dregan said.
“For these people any level of physical activity may benefit their cognitive well-being in the long-term and this is something that needs to be explored further,” he added.
“Setting lower exercise targets at the beginning and gradually increasing their frequency and intensity could be a more effective method for improving levels of exercise within the wider population,” he said.
“Clinical trials are required to further explore the benefits of exercise for cognitive well-being among older adults, whilst examining the effects of exercise with varying levels of frequency and intensity,” he added.