Image: © Horsche/Thinkstock
A review of research published online April 24, 2017, by the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that physical exercise may help improve thinking skills in adults ages 50 or older, regardless of their mental performance when they started exercising. Researchers combed through 39 randomized controlled trials that looked at this age group. Most of the studies involved people who did aerobic exercise (the kind that gets your heart and lungs pumping, like brisk walking), resistance training (the kind that works your muscles and bones, like weight lifting), or a combination of aerobics and resistance training. A handful of the studies involved people who did yoga or tai chi. In all of the studies, participants took tests that measured various aspects of thinking skills — such as attention, working memory, and the ability to plan, organize, and manage time. All exercise types but yoga appeared to have benefits for the brain. The authors say the exercise regimen with the biggest brain boost was a combination of both aerobic and resistance-type training, of at least moderate intensity, for at least 45 minutes per session on as many days of the week as possible. The takeaway? Start exercising, and incorporate resistance training into your weekly routine.