Study shows daily physical activity helps boost brain function in middle-aged people and the elderly

Exercising regularly can help you maintain a healthy weight, which is key to avoiding health issues like obesity and diabetes. According to a study, increased physical activity is also linked to improved cognitive performance among middle-aged and older adults.

The study published in the journal JMIR mHealth and uHealth was led by Zvinka Zlater, a clinical psychologist at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

Exercise and cognitive performance

For the study, the researchers observed a total of 90 adults aged 50 to 74 years old with varying comorbidities and baseline cognition.

For 14 days, the researchers tracked the volunteers’ physical activity using an accelerometer. They also measured the brain function of the volunteers through twice daily ecological momentary cognitive tests (EMCTs) conducted using a smartphone.

The researchers used linear mixed effect models and moderation analysis to draw associations between factors like physical activity, baseline cognition, cardiovascular risk and whether participants functioned dependently or independently.

According to the study findings, days of increased physical activity were associated with better cognitive test scores. Moderation analyses also revealed that there was an increase in cognitive function after physical activity for dependently functioning and independently functioning volunteers. (Related: Study: Walking for an extra 10 minutes daily can increase your life expectancy.)

The study was observational rather than interventional, so no conclusions on whether physical activity directly impacts brain function were made. But the study showed that EMCTs could be used as a reliable remote measurement of brain function, which could be useful for future studies on cognitive performance among similar age groups.


This topic is relevant to the integrative community in terms of patient care planning and implementing physical activity into treatments that can help improve cognitive function.

Best exercises for seniors

Regular physical activity is important even for the elderly because it helps you become more independent, improves balance and helps prevent and counteract disease.

Boost your overall health by trying these exercises for seniors:

Body weight workouts

Muscle loss can be devastating and debilitating for the elderly. At least one-third of seniors live with severe muscle loss, which can cause hormone problems, a decrease in the ability to metabolize protein and other health issues.

Doing body weight workouts can help address the effects of muscle atrophy in older adults. This exercise is affordable and you don’t need a lot of materials for body weight workouts.

You usually need just workout clothes and a mat to soften the impact with the floor.

Chair yoga 

Chair yoga is a low-impact form of exercise that improves your balance, flexibility, mobility and muscle strength – all of which are crucial health aspects for the elderly.

Chair yoga is an accessible form of yoga that provides less stress on your bones, joint and muscles compared to more conventional forms of yoga.


Walking is one of the least stressful and accessible forms of exercise.

For some seniors, walking is a bigger challenge than others, so distance and step goals will differ from one person to another. For the general population, 10,000 steps per day are advised for a healthy lifestyle.

However, if you have trouble walking or experiencing joint pain, focus on a smaller number as your goal.

Water aerobics

Water aerobics is one of the most popular forms of exercise among all ages, especially for the elderly. Exercising in the water is perfect for those who have arthritis and other forms of joint pain since the buoyancy of the water puts less stress on your joints.

Water also brings natural resistance, which eliminates the need for weights in strength training. Doing water aerobics exercises can help improve your balance, flexibility and strength with minimal stress on your body.

Visit for more tips on how to boost brain function as you age.

Watch the video below for an easy workout plan that you can try at home.

This video is from the Health Tips channel on

More related stories:

New research shows 90-minute naps boost motor skills and memory.

Research reveals unlikely connection between oral health and cognitive decline among the elderly.

Elderly people should try weightlifting to prevent frailty, health experts recommend.

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