Walking for 2-3 hours a week can significantly improve memory problems in women over 50, says Professor Nicola T. Lautenschlager, from the University of Melbourne, Australia. Her study into exercise and cognitive function has just been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study is believed to be the first in the world to demonstrate that moderate exercise can positively affect cognitive function.
The study divided 170 people who had reported memory problems (but did not meet criteria for dementia) into two groups. One group continued their usual activities, the other took part in a 24-week home-based physical activity program with the aim to walk three 50 minute sessions or other moderate exercise each week.
Participants in the exercise group did an average of 142 more minutes in a week, or 20 minutes in a day, than those in the control group. Professor Lautenschlager said by the end of the study, participants in the exercise group performed better on cognitive tests and had better delayed recall. They also had lower Clinical Dementia Rating Scores.
"We found the improvement in memory occurred not only during the six month trial but also 6 and 12 months after completion of the supervised physical activity program'' Lautenschlager noted. "We have known for a long time that exercise is a great way to improve cardiovascular health, but it may be that in the future exercise can also be recommended to protect against the ageing brain."
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Source: University of Melbourne