Flex Your Brain Power
Physical fitness improves cognitive flexibility, among older adults.
A number of previous studies report that higher cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and physical activity in aging associate with greater brain structural and functional integrity, and higher cognitive functioning. Agnieszka Burzynska, from the University of Illinois (Illinois, USA), and colleagues assessed 100 healthy but low-activity men and women, ages 60 to 80 years, using accelerometers to capture their physical activity over a one-week period. The team also conducted MRI to observe changes in blood oxygen levels over time, reflecting the subjects’ brain activity at-rest; and evaluated the microscopic integrity of each participant’s white matter fibers in the brain. The team observed that the study participants who engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity had more variable brain activity at rest than those who don't, and that the more active adults showed more moment-to-moment fluctuations in spontaneous brain activity – suggesting better cognitive performance. As well, on average, the more active older adults had better white-matter structure, compared with their less-active peers. The study authors submit that: “engaging in higher intensity [physical activity] may have protective effects on neural processing in aging.”
Burzynska AZ, Wong CN, Voss MW, Cooke GE, Gothe NP, Fanning J, McAuley E, Kramer AF. “Physical Activity Is Linked to Greater Moment-To-Moment Variability in Spontaneous Brain Activity in Older Adults.” PLoS One. 2015 Aug 5;10(8):e0134819.