Exercise for Improved Cognitive Functioning


Some recently conducted studies are signaling, once again, the importance of physical exercise for senior citizens. Exercise significantly improves our ability to ‘plan and execute’ behavior. Simply put, that means to figure out what we want or need to do and then do it. Psychological Science reported that different kinds of exercise programs improve this important ability.

Another study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society goes a step further and suggests that exercise actually can protect our brain’s ability to work as it is supposed to work. That study revealed that seniors who did aerobic exercises had better cognitive scores than those who didn’t–after six years of gathering data.


Another study focused on the size of the brain, since size influences the brain’s ability to function. In a study reported in the Journal of Gerontology, seniors ages 60-80 were divided into three groups. The first were directed to walk one to three times a week for three months; the second to do stretching exercises for the same period length and period of time; the third group did not exercise at all. At the beginning and end of three months, the participants’ brain size was measured by MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). The results were very telling: brain size had increased significantly in the group of people who had walked. Frontal lobe size had increased the most; this is the area that manages memory and attention. Another result was equally significant: brain size did not change in the other two groups.

Most health experts recommend 30-45 minutes of exercise three times a week. Most studies suggest this is effective for improving/increasing cognitive function. Among the group of experts are those who go a step further. They suggest daily exercise for both maintaining good physical health as well as improved cognitive functioning.

So it appears to be exercise vs sitting in the rocker or recliner. Improved chances for good cognitive functioning vs increased risk for dementia? It’s a no brainer.