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The best way to keep your mind sharp if you’re over 50 is to perform moderate exercise several times a week, new research suggests.

In a review of 39 studies, it found that thinking and memory skills were most improved when people exercised the heart and muscles at regular intervals. This remained the case in people already showing signs of cognitive decline.

The Australian researchers said that taking up exercise at any age was worthwhile for the mind and body. And T’ai Chi exercises were recommended for those over the age of 50 who couldn't manage other more challenging forms of exercise, the study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine said.

It’s no secret that physical activity is known to reduce the risk of a number of diseases, including type-2 diabetes and some cancers, and it is thought to play a role in warding off the brain's natural decline as we enter middle age.

The theory is that through exercise the brain receives a greater supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients that boost its health as well as a growth hormone that helps the formation of new neurons and connections.

Improvements

In this analysis of previous studies, University of Canberra researchers looked at the effects of at least four weeks of structured physical exercise on the brain function of adults.

In a variety of brain tests, they found evidence of aerobic exercise improving cognitive abilities, such as thinking, reading, learning and reasoning, while muscle training – for example, using weights – had a significant effect on memory and the brain's ability to plan and organise, the so-called executive functions.

Joe Northey, study author and researcher from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise at Canberra, said the findings were convincing enough to enable both types of exercise to be prescribed to improve brain health in the over-50s.

“Even if you are doing moderate exercise only once or twice a week there are still improvements in cognitive function, but the improvements were better the more exercise was done,” he added.

Bromford’s retirement living homes, which we’re currently building in Stourport and Banbury, are becoming increasingly as we offer customers the opportunity to live in a lively and vibrant community where people can really retain their independence. All developments come equipped with a gymnasium, café, lounge and an activities room hosting regular community events to promote a health and balanced lifestyle choice.

You can find out more information here.

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