In both groups, everyone worked three times in the first week, about half an hour, and under surveillance. They then added sessions on their own, six months later, completing about five workouts most of the week. The program continued for a year in total. About 20 volunteers left at the time, mostly from the walking group.
Volunteers then returned to the lab for a repeat of the original tests, and the researchers compared the results. Not to surprise anyone, the exercise group was more fit with greater aerobic capacity, while there was no change in the stretcher’s endurance. The aerobic exercise group also showed much less stiffness in their carotid arteries and, as a result, more blood flow to their brain and throughout the bloodstream.
Perhaps most important, they performed better now on some tests of executive function than the stretch and tone group, which are the skills involved in thinking and decision making. These are among those abilities that decrease in dementia as soon as possible.
Interestingly, however, both groups had slightly increased their scores on most tests of memory and thinking, and to nearly the same extent. In fact, getting up and growing in some way – and perhaps even socially interacting with people in the lab – appeared to have burning thinking skills and helped prevent rapid deterioration.
Still, researchers believe that over a longer period of time, brisk walking will result in greater cognitive benefits and less memory decline than benign stretching, according to a new study by UT Southwestern Medical Center’s neurology professor, Let’s look after.
They say “it takes more than a year for the blood flow to improve in the brain”. He and other researchers are planning large, long-lasting studies to test that idea, he says. They also hope, in part, to investigate how more or less exercise sessions each week can help the brain, and whether there may be ways to motivate volunteers more with an exercise program.
For now, however, he believes the group’s findings serve as a useful reminder, changing mindsets as they move forward. “Park away” while you shop or make a ruckus. “Take the stairs,” and try to get your heart rate up while you exercise. Doing so, he says, can help protect your lifelong remembering and thinking ability.