Health Tips: Exercise Makes Middle-Aged People Smarter

High-intensity interval training makes middle-aged people not only healthier but smarter, showed a Montreal Heart Institute (MHI) study led by Anil Nigam, MD.

“We worked with six adults who all followed a four-month program of twice weekly interval training on stationary bicycles and twice weekly resistance training. Cognitive function, VO2 max, and brain oxygenation during exercise testing revealed that the participants’ cognitive functions had greatly improved thanks to the exercise,“ Dr. Nigam said.

“Our participants underwent a battery of cognitive, biological, and physiological tests before the program began in order to determine their cognitive functions, body composition, cardiovascular risk, brain oxygenation during exercise, and maximal aerobic capacity,” Dr. Nigam explained. To see what was actually happening in the brain, the researchers used near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), a technique that works with light sent though human tissue that reacts with oxygen in the blood (light absorption).

“After the program was finished, we discovered that their waist circumference, and particularly their trunk fat mass, had decreased. We also found that their VO2 max and insulin sensitivity had increased significantly, in tandem with their score on the cognitive tests and the oxygenation signals in the brain during exercise,” Dr. Nigam said.