A mild-intensity calisthenics regimen not only improved the attention and memory of healthy older adults, but preserved their brain volume, according to research in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. The protective effect against brain volume loss, however, faded shortly after the participants stopped exercising.
Led by researchers from the University of Tsukuba in Japan, the study involved 110 healthy people over 65 years of age, of which seventy-five voluntarily enrolled in the exercise group. The regimen lasted two years and involved a home-based daily practice of Japanese “furi-furi-guppa” calisthenics for 10 minutes, three times a day. Once monthly a more intensive regime of exercises took place for an hour at a community center.
“The exercise group showed significant improvement in attentional shift over the course of the observation period including a 6-month follow-up,” wrote the researchers. They found the positive effects on various brain regions were more transient, however, reinforcing their “use it or lose it” hypothesis. “Neuroimaging analysis revealed the significant preservation of bilateral prefrontal volume in the exercise group with small-volume corrections, although this effect faded after intervention.”
They also noted that the “changes in attentional shift and memory were positively correlated with the prefrontal volumetric changes. Our results suggest that mild-intensity exercise could prevent prefrontal volume reduction due to aging and impede cognitive decline.”
(Abstract) Long-term mild-intensity exercise regimen preserves prefrontal cortical volume against aging (Tamura, Masashi et al. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. Published online before print October 29, 2014. DOI: 10.1002/gps.4205)