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Aerobic Exercise Improves Cognitive Function

Increased fitness both reverses and prevents cognitive impairment in older adults

FRIDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Moderate amounts of aerobic activity improve cognitive function and reverse decay and cognitive deficits in older adults, according to a report published online Oct. 16 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Kirk Erickson, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, and Arthur F. Kramer, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois Beckman Institute in Urbana, reviewed research on the ability of aerobic exercise to prevent and reverse cognitive decline.

The authors describe research from multiple studies demonstrating that improving fitness not only increases aerobic capacity but also enhances executive function. Similarly, they discuss research demonstrating improved prefrontal and parietal cortices -- important regions for executive function -- among patients with higher or improved fitness. Finally, Erickson and Kramer recommend active lifestyle interventions with moderate amounts of aerobic activity to improve cognitive function.

"Given the extant literature summarized in this review on the effect of aerobic exercise on brain and cognition, it can be safely recommended that moderate levels of exercise can serve as both a preventive measure against age-related cognitive and brain deterioration and a treatment to reverse decay and cognitive deficits already present in older adults," the authors conclude. "This result is also consistent with a large epidemiological literature that generally suggests that higher levels of physical fitness and physical activity can reduce the likelihood of developing cognitive impairments."

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