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Why Both Aerobic and Cognitive Exercise Promote Brain Health

USC Davis researcher Liz Zelin­ski just brought to our atten­tion a very insight­ful meta-analysis  (sys­tem­atic analy­sis of pre­vi­ous sci­en­tific stud­ies) titled Extended prac­tice and aer­o­bic exer­cise inter­ven­tions ben­e­fit untrained cog­ni­tive out­comes in older adults: a meta-analysis.

  • OBJECTIVES:  To exam­ine whether ther­a­peu­tic inter­ven­tions of extended prac­tice of cog­ni­tive tasks or aer­o­bic exer­cise have led to sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment in untrained cog­ni­tive tasks.
  • MEASUREMENTS: Between-group effect sizes (ESs), which account for prac­tice effects on out­come mea­sures, and within-experimental group ESs were com­puted from untrained cog­ni­tive out­come domains, includ­ing choice reac­tion time, mem­ory, and exec­u­tive func­tion, and compared.
  • CONCLUSION: Find­ings indi­cate that aer­o­bic and extended cog­ni­tive prac­tice train­ing inter­ven­tions for healthy older adults improve per­for­mance on untrained cog­ni­tive tasks.

In other words, both types of exer­cise seem to bring pos­i­tive and com­ple­men­tary ben­e­fits — a mes­sage often over­looked in the quest for a sin­gle “magic pill” or gen­eral solu­tion to all brain health needs.

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