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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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