Washington: A new study has examined the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), memory and cognition in young and older adults and has shown that cardiorespiratory fitness improves memory among older adults.
The study conducted at Boston University Medical Center showed that CRF has been associated with enhanced executive function in older adults, but the relationship with long-term memory remains unclear.
Researchers compared 33 young adults (age 18-31) and 27 older adults (age 55-82) with a wide range of cardiorespiratory levels. Participants completed exercise testing to evaluate their cardiorespiratory function and neuropsychological testing to assess their memory, planning and problem-solving abilities. In addition to standardized neuropsychological tasks of executive function and long-term memory, participants engaged in a laboratory task in which they had to learn face-name associations.
Researchers found that older adults who had higher cardiorespiratory levels (i.e. were more "fit" performed as well as young adults on executive function measures. On long-term memory measures, young adults performed better than older high fit adults, who in turn performed better than low fit older adults. In older adults, better physical fitness level was associated with improved executive function, and memory. In young adults, fitness had no effect on their memory or executive functions.
According to the researchers these findings demonstrate that the effect of CRF is not limited to executive function, but also extends to long-term memory.
Corresponding author Scott Haynes, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, said that their findings that CRF may mitigate age-related cognitive decline is appealing for a variety of reasons, including that aerobic activities to enhance CRF (walking, dancing, etc) are inexpensive, accessible and could potentially improve quality of life by delaying cognitive decline and prolonging independent function.
The study is published in the Journal of Gerontology.