Harvard Women's Health Watch

Study highlights exercise for memory

If there weren't enough good reasons to exercise, here's another one: a new study finds that exercise improves memory and reduces the risk for cognitive decline as we get older. The study included 86 women ages 70 to 80, some of whom had mild cognitive impairment—a loss of memory and mental function that often precedes Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. The women were randomly assigned to do resistance training, aerobics, or balance and toning exercises twice a week. After six months, 77 women remained in the study. Women in the resistance-training group performed much better on tests of attention, conflict resolution, and memory than those in the balance and toning group, according to results published in the April 23 Archives of Internal Medicine. The aerobic training group didn't see as much of an improvement in mental function, although their physical function did improve. This study suggests that firming your muscles can also tone up your mind. Before starting any resistance training program, check with your doctor to make sure it's safe for you to exercise.

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