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Exercise helps sustain mental activity as we age, may prevent dementia-like illnesses

New Orleans -- Based on a review of studies on exercise and its effect on brain functioning in human and animal populations, researchers find that physical exercise may slow aging's effects and help people maintain cognitive abilities well into older age. Animals seem to benefit from exercise too and perform spatial tasks better when they are active. Furthermore, fitness training an increased level of exercise may improve some mental processes even more than moderate activity, say the authors of the review.

Findings from the review will be presented at the 114th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association (APA).

Varying opinions still exist on the benefits of exercise and activity, said authors Arthur F. Kramer, PhD, Kirk I. Erickson, PhD and Stanley J. Colcombe of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, "but our review of the last 40 years of research does offer evidence that physical exercise can have

a positive influence on cognitive and brain functions in older animal and human subjects." Different methodologies were examined to comprehensively study what effects exercise can have.

The researchers first examined the epidemiological literature of diseases to determine whether exercise and physical activity can at certain points in a person's lifetime improve cognitive ability and decrease the likelihood of age-related neurological diseases, like Alzheimer's. The authors then reviewed longitudinal randomized trial studies to see if specific fitness training had an affect on cognition and brain function in older adults. Finally, animal studies were examined to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms responsible for exercise effects on the brain as well as on learning and memory.

Based on a review of the epidemiological literature, the authors found a significant relationship between physical activity and later cognitive function and decreased occurrence of dementia. And the be
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Contact: Pam Willenz
pwillenz@apa.org
202-336-5707
American Psychological Association
11-Aug-2006


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