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An hour of exercise a day can improve brain function in children and the elderly

Published on 20/02/2012

A new study has shown that children who are fit are better at multitasking and performing difficult mental tasks than their less fit counterparts.

Children and the elderly who exercise regularly have better cognitive control

A team at the Beckham Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois found that fitter children are better at crossing the street when distracted by music or holding a conversation on a hands-free mobile phone.

The researchers found that the fit children could cross a road in a virtual reality simulation with ease when distracted. However, the less fit children tended to misjudge the speed and distance of the computer generated vehicles.

Professor Art Kramer, director of the institute, said: "One way to look at it is that the high fit kids think more efficiently and so are better at multitasking.”

"We have found that aerobically fit children exhibit superior cognitive control to lower fit children."

Presenting his findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Vancouver, Professor Kramer also revealed that exercising for up to an hour a day can improve memory and learning in the elderly.

He found that walking or cycling regularly for between 6 months to a year can improve memory and problem solving skills in the elderly by between 15 to 20 per cent.

Professor Kramer said: "We have been able to do a lot of neuroimaging work alongside our studies in the elderly and show that brain networks and structures also change with exercise.”

Earlier this year his team showed that the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in memory, of elderly people who exercised regularly for more than 6 months increased by 2 per cent.

Professor Kramer said: "It is aerobic exercise that is important so by starting off doing just 15 minutes a day and working up to 45 minutes to an hour of continuous working we can see some real improvements in cognition after six months to a year.”

A study by researchers in Taiwan recently revealed that each additional 15 minutes a day of exercise will reduce your risk of cancer by 1% and death by 4%.

Some private medical insurers like PruHealth offer discounts on gym membership to its customers to encourage healthy lifestyles. Compare health insurance online now to start getting rewarded for exercising regularly.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012

Categories:  Health
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