Forget the killer abs — working out can make you smarter.
The Canadian Cardiovascular Congress heard Monday that a group of previously sedentary adults improved their ability to think, recall and make quick decisions after embarking on a four month exercise regime.
“If you talk to people who exercise, they say the feel sharper,” said Dr. Martin Juneau, director of prevention at the Montreal Heart Institute and part of the pilot study team. “Now we’ve found a way to measure that.”
Presented at the congress, being held in Toronto, he explained the study looked at adults — average age 49 — who were overweight and inactive.
After measuring cognitive function as well as body composition, blood flow to the brain, cardiac output and their maximum ability to tolerate exercise, the subjects began a twice-a-week routine with an exercise bike and circuit training.
After four months the subjects’ weight, body mass index, fat mass and waist circumference were all significantly lower with the capacity to exercise up 15 per cent.
But the most exciting finding — according to Juneau — was the fact that cognitive function had also increased.
He says the improvements were proportional to the changes in exercise capacity and blood weight — the more people could exercise (and the more weight the lost) the sharper they became.
“A decline in cognitive function is a normal part of aging (and) that drop can be worse for people who have coronary disease,” says Juneau. “It’s reassuring to know that you can at least partially prevent that decline by exercising and losing weight.”
Dr. Beth Abramson, Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson, says that at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity a week can make a huge difference to manage risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
“There are many benefits of exercise . . . we know it can make us feel better,” says Abramson. “(The findings) suggests it can make us ‘think better’ as well.”
The 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress — the largest gathering of cardiovascular and allied health professionals — is co-hosted by The Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.