Skip to content

Regular Exercise Boosts Older Adults’ Brainpower

It improves thinking ability but not memory, researchers find

Man standing with a mountain bike in front of a mountain range.


Bike for better brain health.

En español | Physical exercise at a rate of at least two hours a week can help older adults keep their minds sharp, a new research study has found. The findings reinforce prior studies that show a direct link between exercise and brain health.

“We found that exercising for at least 52 hours [over six months] is associated with improved cognitive performance in older adults with and without cognitive impairment,” the researchers reported in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice.

Forms of effective exercise include aerobic, resistance or strength training, yoga, tai chi or some combination.

"This is evidence that you can actually turn back the clock of aging in your brain by adopting a regular exercise regimen," Joyce Gomes-Osman of the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine told MedPage Today.

"The constructs of cognition that were most amenable to exercise were processing speed and executive function," she said. "This is an encouraging result because those two constructs are among the first that start to go with the aging process.”

While exercise helped the subjects’ thinking ability, it did not seem to improve their memory, the researchers found.

The study was based on a review of medical databases reflecting the results of tests of the impact of exercise on cognition. The subjects' average age was 73.

"It's encouraging to know that you don't need to be running,” Gomes-Osman told MedPage Today. “If you start walking, you're going to get a benefit. But this is not window-shopping; this is walking. It's physical exercise, not just physical activity."  

More on Brain Health