Posted on May 02, 2014, 6 a.m.
Regular cardiovascular exercise during young adulthood may help to stave off memory problems in middle-age.
Running regularly or participating in other forms of cardiovascular exercise in your 20s may help to preserve memory and thinking skills in middle-age, according to recent study results. David R Jacobs, Jr, PhD, of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and colleagues studied 2,747 healthy people with an average age of 25 at the start of the study. Participants underwent treadmill tests during the first year of the study and then again 20-years later. Cognitive tests taken 25-years after the start of the study measured verbal memory, psychomotor speed and executive function. At the first test, participants lasted an average of 10-minutes on the treadmill; 20-years later, that number had decreased by an average of 2.9 minutes. After adjusting for other factors such as smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol, results showed that for every additional minute participants completed on the treadmill at the first test, they recalled 0.12 more words correctly on the memory test of 15 words and correctly replaced 0.92 more numbers with meaningless symbols in the test of psychomotor speed 25-years later. Additionally, participants who had smaller decreases in their time completed on the treadmill test 20-years later were more likely to perform better on the executive function test than those who had bigger decreases. "This is one more important study that should remind young adults of the brain health benefits of cardio fitness activities such as running, swimming, biking or cardio fitness classes," said Dr Jacobs. "Other studies in older individuals have shown that these tests are among the strongest predictors of developing dementia in the future. One study showed that every additional word remembered on the memory test was associated with an 18% decrease in the risk of developing dementia after 10 years."
Zhu N, Jacobs DR Jr, Schreiner PJ, Yaffe K, Bryan N, Launer LJ, et al. Cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive function in middle age: The CARDIA Study. Neurology. 2014, Apr 2. [Epub ahead of print].