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Episodic memory, the remembrance of past personal experiences, in older adults without dementia can be improved by the regular practice of aerobic exercise, according to research published last month in Communications Medicine. A meta-analysis of 36 studies, representing data from 2,750 participants, found a positive effect for aerobic exercise interventions in studies with a mean subject age between 55 and 68 years old, but not those with a mean subject age of 69 to 85.
These findings suggest that older adults may be able to prevent declines in episodic memory, which is typically one of the first aspects of cognition to exhibit deficits with increasing age. Because larger positive effects from aerobic exercise were seen in the younger of the two age groups, and the benefit was greater for those people who had not yet experienced any cognitive decline, lead author Sarah Aghjayan observed that intervening – in other words, starting an exercise program – earlier is better.
Aerobic exercise, also commonly known as cardio, gets the heart pumping faster and increases the flow of oxygenated blood. It includes such activities as walking, running, bicycling, swimming, and cross-country skiing. As to how often people should exercise, Aghjayan said: “From our study, it seems like exercising about three times a week for at least four months is how much you need to reap the benefits in episodic memory.”
Sources: Exercise can help older adults retain memories, a Pitt study shows. University of Pittsburgh, PittWire, February 17, 2022. pitt.edu/pittwire/features-articles/exercise-helps-older-adults-retain-memories.
Aghjayan SL, Bournias T, Kang C, et al. Aerobic exercise improves episodic memory in late adulthood: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Commun Med, 2022; 2(15). doi.org/10.1038/s43856-022-00079-7.
Published in the Price-Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing
Spring 2022 | Volume 46, Number 1
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