Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The benefits of cognitive and physical training on mental functioning

Older women

Executive function refers to the ability to flexibly select information, maintain, update, and generalize meanings and fluidly innovate ideas, while at the same time sustaining a goal in mind. Older adults consistently perform lower in executive and memory tests, than younger people, because physical, cognitive and memory decline lead to problems in executive function. However, physically active adults tend to maintain greater flexibility, energy (mental and physical) in old age. With increasing life expectancy and skyrocketing costs of end-of-life care, preserving psychological and physical health into old age is also a social, economic issue.

Imaging methodologies can study how cognition and brain function is related to functional changes in the brain. When advanced reasoning training, cognitive training and physical training were compared in a randomized, comparative trial in on older adults (56–75 years), both physical and cognitive exercises were found beneficial. However, while advanced reasoning training could increase the resilience of neural function and overall cognitive brain health, Goal Management Training benefited working memory, verbal and abstract reasoning; it also reduced depressive symptoms. Interval training might stall and even reverse the signs of aging because it triggers the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus, a critical brain region for learning, memory and mood regulation. Learning to play a musical instrument also has been shown to prevent mental decline. 

The present results thus provide clinically-relevant evidence that aerobic exercise and cognitive reasoning training improves brain health differently. As life expectancy increases, the cognitive benefits of healthy habits, such as complex reasoning and aerobic exercise is becoming more critical to understand. Future trials might determine the possible additive effects of combined protocols, such as reasoning training/physical activity, in cognitive vitality. Evidence supports the intuitive view that any exercise program is better than none and that exercise improves life functionality more than specific cognitive training protocols. However, there is no better time to start exercising then right now. Do not forget weight-bearing exercises, which improve coordination and balance, and prevent osteoporosis! However, exercise is beneficial at any age, and if you start right now, you will be way ahead of the competition by the time your hair turns gray. 

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