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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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