In "On Golden Pond," when Norman Thayer (Henry Fonda) went fishing for trout and rowed his boat, he was doing his best to fight off encroaching cognitive problems.
Well, he had it right! A new study from Canada illustrates just how good for the brain any physical activity or exercise can be.
Researchers divided 50 people ages 64 to 76 into three groups, and measured their cognitive skills. One group was then assigned high-intensity exercises to increase lower-body strength and aerobic capacity.
A second focused on high-intensity, upper-body strength-building and aerobic training.
A third group did lower-intensity gross motor activities, such as tossing or kicking a ball, balancing on one foot (with a chair if needed), and our favorite, walking.
After working out three times a week for eight weeks, all three groups showed equal improvements in their brain's executive functioning, such as task-switching, planning, and working memory.
So, whatever your age or physical abilities, here are our recommendations:
1. Begin doing what you can (talk with your doctor). Comfortable with a 60-minute walk? Great! Over time, increase speed and distance. If you're better off doing chair-based exercises, get into it! Slowly increase reps and add variations to your routine.
2. Aim to break a sweat. It means you're using your muscles, increasing respiration and clearing out toxins. All brain candy!
3. Stay engaged by joining a group walk or exercise class. Enlist friends to join you.
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