Washington: Just six months of exercise can improve memory and thinking by almost 50 per cent, says a study.
Toronto researchers found that the proportion of stroke patients with at least mild cognitive impairment dropped from 66 per cent to 37 per cent during a research study on the impact of exercise on the brain.
"People who have cognitive deficits after stroke have a threefold risk of mortality, and they``re more likely to be institutionalized," says lead researcher Susan Marzolini of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.
"If we can improve cognition through exercise, which also has many physical benefits, then this should become a standard of care for people following stroke."
Forty-one patients, of whom 70 per cent had mild to moderate walking problems requiring a cane or walker, followed an adapted aerobic and strength/resistance training program five days a week. Exercises designed to imitate daily life included walking, lifting weights and doing squats.
The research team found "significant improvements" in overall brain function at the conclusion of the program, with the most improvement in attention, concentration, planning and organizing. Muscular strength and walking ability also increased.
The study did not use a control group of people who didn`t exercise. However, Ms. Marzolini says, "these results provide compelling evidence that by improving cardiovascular fitness through aerobic exercise and increasing muscle mass with resistance training, people with stroke can improve brain health."
The study was recently presented at the Canadian Stroke Congress.