This could be the best way to boost brain power

Study reveals exercising in your 40s may enhance your brain's capacity to process and remember knowledge

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Man holding brown ropes.— Pexels
Man holding brown ropes.— Pexels

A recent study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, reveals that exercising in your 40s may enhance your brain's capacity to process and remember knowledge. 

According to London-based researchers, middle-aged people who regularly engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity score higher on cognitive tests. On the other hand, people who don't move much or spend their days sitting seem to have less mental capacity.

Previous studies examining the advantages of exercise in midlife found a connection to improved cognitive health. These studies, however, did not investigate other potential explanations for the increase in brain power, such as how much time a person spends sleeping. Mid- to high-intensity exercise enhances cognition, particularly in the parts of the brain responsible for working memory, organising, and planning, according to the current study.

Nearly 4,500 individuals born in the United Kingdom in 1970 were followed for their health as part of the 1970 British Cohort Study. Participants (now 46 to 47 years old) were required to submit a thorough update on their health, upbringing, and lifestyle from 2016 to 2018. They also wore an activity monitor for a week, at least 10 hours per day, to track their daily activity. Participants took part in a series of cognitive tests that evaluated their verbal memory and executive function in order to explore their cognition.

According to the activity tracker data, participants engaged in light physical activity for five hours and 42 minutes on average, and moderate to strenuous physical activity for 51 minutes. People in their mid-forties spent an average of nine hours and 16 minutes a day sitting. Every night, participants slept for roughly eight hours and eleven minutes, which numerous studies indicate is the ideal amount of time.

It is interesting that people who were sedentary most of the time were more likely to have higher cognitive ratings. The researchers hypothesise that this might be the result of these individuals engaged in cognitively demanding activities like reading or working rather than binge-watching TV for extended periods of time. Instead of memory, the correlations were greater for executive functions, such as organising and processing information.

The greatest cognitive test performers were more active physically and less sedentary, and they slept for shorter periods of time. The lowest achievers engaged in mild physical activity like walking more frequently than other forms of exercise.

The study's authors discovered that when looking at moderate-to-vigorous physical exercise by itself, it was the factor that had the greatest impact on how well someone's cognition was doing. A person's cognition was improved by 1.31% when they engaged in more high-intensity exercise and less than nine minutes of sedentary activity. People who switched from passive to active exercise exhibited a 1.27% improvement in cognitive function. The study team also noticed that when patients forwent seven minutes of sleep in favour of high-impact activities, their cognition improved by 1.2%.

Only after substituting sitting for either 37 minutes of light exercise or 56 minutes of sleep did sedentary behaviours like sitting continue to have a beneficial connection with cognition. However, persons whose sedentary behaviours replaced eight minutes of strenuous activity saw a 1-2% decline in their cognitive scores.

The results show that being very active improves cognition, however as this was an observational study, there are a number of limitations to take into account. 

First, only the amount of time spent in bed was recorded by the activity trackers; neither the quantity nor the quality of sleep was taken into consideration. It is probable that some folks spent eight hours in bed yet had trouble sleeping. Poor cognition is also a result of sleep loss. 

It is also feasible that a workout, such as running a half-marathon vs lifting weights, could have distinct impacts on the body because activity monitors only evaluate the intensity of movement.