The idea that physical health can contribute to your neurological and mental health has been kicked around for many years. However, a recent study conducted by Dr. Joyce Gomes-Osman, PT, Ph.D. in the Journal of Neurology Clinical Practice reveals what specific measures you can take to fight against age-related cognitive brain decline. This blog discusses the amount and type of exercise required to maximize the benefits exercise provides regarding neurological health.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
According to Dr. Gomes-Osman, the physical changes that lead to age-related cognitive decline can start up to 10-20 years before a person displays any observable signs of cognitive decline. Cognitive decline may involve a reduction in different types of cognitive function, including processing speed, executive function, global cognition, and memory.
Processing speed refers to how fast the brain takes to take in information, analyze and subsequently respond to it. Simply put, processing speed involves a person’s reaction time to information. Executive function refers to the ability to perform higher brain functions such as organization, reasoning, impulse, and impulse control. Executive function is crucial for an adult to live independently in society, as it is responsible for addressing a person’s finances, healthcare decisions, and tasks such as driving. Global cognition refers to the brain's ability to process information in general.
The results of Dr. Gomes-Osman’s study revealed that a person must undergo approximately 52 hours of total exercise exposure before someone can notice any improvement in cognitive function. Her study also showed that the frequency or intensity of exercise had little bearing on when cognitive improvement manifests. As a result, a person who exercises 4 hours a week can expect to see results after 13 weeks of regular exercise. A person who exercises 13 hours a week might see results after 4 months of regular exercise.
Therefore, it is crucial for someone to exercise at a safe pace based on his or her individual fitness level and health needs. People should not be discouraged if they do not see results after a month. It is more important to remain dedicated to a regular exercise routine and be patient – the benefits of exercise on cognitive function will become noticeable over time. As a result, a person must be prepared to make a lifestyle change that focuses on making time for regular physical activity.
What Kind of Exercise Will Help Fight Cognitive Decline?
Dr. Gomes-Osman’s study indicated that aerobic exercise, strength training, and mind-body exercises would contribute to improving a person’s cognitive health. Most of the data in the study focused on walking as an aerobic exercise. However, casual walking is not enough. To reap the benefits of walking as an aerobic exercise, a person must physically exert themselves to the point where carrying on a conversation becomes a challenge. In Dr. Gomes-Osman’s study, Aerobic exercise demonstrated improvement in a person’s global cognition.
Strength training also showed promise as a method of combating cognitive decline – particularly leg strengthening exercise. Leg strengthening activities promote a person’s ability to move from one place to another to carry out important activities for living.
Moreover, mind-body exercises such as yoga and tai chi help sharpen a person’s mind by promoting coordination, balance, and processing speed. While these exercises promoted processing speed and executive function, the study did not indicate a significant impact on memory.
How Can Someone Implement an Exercise Routine to Maximize Cognitive Benefits?
According to Dr. Gomes-Osman’s study, a person who lived a predominantly sedentary lifestyle should ease into an exercise routine. The intensity of the routine should gradually increase as someone becomes acclimated to a lifestyle with more physical activity.
To track results, physicians and physical therapists should assess their patient’s cognitive function before starting the new exercise routine. Cognitive assessments can be accomplished by evaluating a patient’s ability to perform specific tasks that focus on a type of cognitive function. Certain video games are particularly useful for testing processing speed and executive function. After the patient completes 52 hours of exercise, doctors should reassess the patient using the same assessment methods.
Get Personalized Physical Therapy for Monmouth County Residents
While physical exercise can be a powerful tool in the fight against conditions involving age-related cognitive, including dementia and Alzheimer’s, it is not a cure. However, the potential benefits can provide a healthier supplementary measure – or even an alternative treatment – to medication. For more information, you should contact an experienced Monmouth County physical therapist. At ProFysio Physical Therapy, we have specialized knowledge and training to help you achieve your personal health and fitness goals. Our team consists of knowledgeable doctors licensed in physical therapy who are there to guide and assist patients through their medical conditions to promote their independence and quality of life.