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Older Adults and Brain Fitness

Comparative analysis reveals most effective short-term method for making cognitive improvements.

Older adult brain fitness

Numerous studies demonstrate that cardiovascular exercise boosts brain fitness. New findings from Canadian and French researchers show that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) improves executive function more than moderate-intensity, continuous aerobic training (MICT) or resistance training (RT) over a 6-week training period.

Investigators conducted the study with 69 healthy, active older adults ages 61–75, collecting data on cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive testing. Researchers divided subjects into three training groups: MICT, RT and HIIT. Cognitive tests measured processing speed in three distinct tasks—naming, interference and switching.

Data analysis showed that both HIIT and MICT participants improved cardiorespiratory fitness. Those who participated in HIIT, however, improved significantly in the “switching” cognitive task, demonstrating progress in flexible thinking. Researchers concluded that HIIT enhanced executive function improvements in the short term and noted that a study conducted over a longer period of time might reveal more benefits from other training intensity levels.

Find the study in Brain Sciences (2020; 10 [11], 796).

See also: Exercise Promotes Brain Fitness in Everyone

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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