Exercise improves cognitive function

People in middle age could make themselves smarter by taking part in more exercise. This is the suggestion of new research to be presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto, which found high-intensity interval training not only has health benefits, but can also improve cognitive functions.

Led by Dr Anil Nigam of the Montreal Heart Institute and University of Montreal, in a collaborative effort with the Montreal Geriatric University Institute, the study followed six adults who took part in a four-month interval training programme that saw them using stationary bicycles and undergoing resistance regimes.

Dr Nigam stated: "Cognitive function, VO2max and brain oxygenation during exercise testing revealed that the participants' cognitive functions had greatly improved thanks to the exercise."

The cognitive tests saw people attempting to remember pairs of numbers and symbols - and the researchers said the findings suggest similar treatments could prove to be of benefit for many different people.

Dr Tom Fawcett, a Chartered Psychologist, adds: "It has been known for a number of years that exercise facilitates information processing and specifically various aspects of cognitive functioning. This includes memory processing, choice reaction time and stimulus response capability. It is a psycho- physiological effect that increasing exercise intensity over rest condition is superior. The question remains at which exercise intensity most benefits are gained requires more research."