Physical activity improves memory


Any amount of exercise in middle age is associated with better cognition in later life, new research suggests ( Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. Published online February 21, 2023. Full article).

A prospective study of 1400 participants showed that those who exercised to any extent in adulthood had significantly better cognitive scores later in life compared with their peers who were physically inactive.

Maintaining an exercise routine throughout adulthood showed the strongest link to subsequent mental acuity.

Physical activity levels were classified as inactive, moderately active (one to four times per month), and most active (five or more times per month). In addition, they were summed across all five assessments to create a total score ranging from 0 (inactive at all ages) to 5 (active at all ages).

Overall, 11% of participants were physically inactive at all five time points; 17% were active at one time point; 20% were active at two and three time points; 17% were active at four time points; and 15% were active at all five time points.

Results showed that being physically active at all study time points was significantly associated with higher cognitive performance, verbal memory, and processing speed when participants were aged 69 (P < .01).

Those who exercised to any extent in adulthood ― even just once a month during one of the time periods, fared better cognitively in later life compared with physically inactive participants.