A new study finds that a little exercise and some mental stimulation could go a long way to helping seniors keep mentally sharp.
University of California San Francisco researchers found the memory and thinking skills of 126 inactive older adults improved after they were given daily activities designed to engage not only their brains but also their bodies.
All subjects were 65 or older and engaged in some type of mental stimulation one hour a day and/or some physical activity for one hour a day for three days a week for three months.
Subjects were randomly divided into four groups, with each performing some combination of a mental exercise (an intensive brain-training computer game or the "mental control" of watching an education DVD) and/or an exercise program (dance-based aerobics or the "exercise control" of a mild stretching class).
All subjects who performed both a mental and physical exercise, regardless of the activity, showed improvements in memory and thinking skills at the end of the study. Physical or mental activity alone resulted in only a small improvement, the researchers said.
Findings were published online April 1 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Previous studies have shown that three 30-minute sessions several times a week of brisk walking or weight training can boost brain power in seniors.