Plenty has been said about the benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise to the body, but researchers found that it also reverses the effects of brain aging.
A new study revealed that six months of regular exercise and eating a healthy diet has significantly improved the cognitive performance of 160 people age 55 and above.
The findings were published in the journal Neurology.
Regular Exercise And A Healthy Diet Fight Aging
During the study, the researchers recruited people whose thinking skills were tested to be similar to people in their 90s. All had a sedentary lifestyle prior to the study.
They were divided into four groups: one did aerobic exercises, one ate a low-sodium diet, one exercised regularly and ate a healthy diet and one control group who participated in classes to improve brain health.
After six months, the group that changed its diet and exercised regularly showed the best improvements in cognitive tests. They lowered their brain age by nine years, resembling the cognitive performance of people who are 84 years old.
The groups that did aerobics and switched to a low-sodium diet alone did not see significant improvement in their brain age. Those in the control group experienced a continuous cognitive decline.
"The bottom line is that it's not too late to derive benefits from exercise, even in this group of people who have evidence of cognitive impairments," stated James Blumenthal, a professor of psychiatry from Duke University Medical Center and one of the researchers.
The researchers believe that this is the first study that looked at the separate and combined effects of exercise and diet to prevent cognitive decline.
Preventing Cognitive Issues
Professor Blumenthal added that a healthy diet and regular exercise improved the brain performance of those who were at risk of developing cognitive problems, including dementia. While he warned that a healthy lifestyle alone can cure dementia, he said that it could lead to overall well-being.
"[T]here is currently no pharmaceutical intervention for preventing dementia," he stated. "So a starting point of improving lifestyle with exercise and perhaps diet in this group of people can have important implications down the road for their overall wellbeing."