Activities like tai chi and yoga can improve brain power in people over 50, researchers have found. Academics from the University of Canberra have analysed 39 studies investigating the link between exercise and brain health in this age group and discovered participating in a 45-minute session at least once a week can improve memory, attention and thinking skills.
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While they noted other exercises like swimming and weight training also proved helpful in this area, experts named tai chi – the ancient Chinese form of flowing movements and balance – as a key activity as it's easier for older people to get involved in. "It is an important finding because non-traditional modes of exercise, such as tai chi, may be suitable for less functional populations," they said of their findings, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Exercises such as Tai Chi and Yoga can improve brain power
"Physical exercise significantly improved cognitive function in adults older than 50 years. Tai chi may be a promising intervention aimed at brain health for the over-50s, although further trials are required." Over 200 million people take part in tai chi every day in China and it's also been found to strengthen joints and bones, boost muscle growth and advance overall balance. With so much focus on the moves and poise, it's thought this is why the brain also reaps benefits.
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While Britain's National Health Service (NHS) recommends older adults take part in 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, or a 75 minute strenuous work out, four in five don't. Dr David Reynolds, of the charity Alzheimer's Research UK, reassuringly added that exercise doesn't have to mean pushing yourself too hard at the gym and he recommends forming a fitness programme that best suits you is the way forward. Dr Doug Brown, of the Alzheimer's Society, also noted that exercise is a great way to prevent dementia.