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High-Intensity Interval Training Improves Memory In Seniors

by Jane Grant

Photo by Pexels

Despite the fact that exercise benefits older adults, the CDC reports that by the age of 75, around one in three men and one in two women do not engage in physical activity. Exercise is linked to a lower risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. However, a study by researchers at McMaster University has shown that one type of exercise regime in particular - High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is also vital for improving memory in older adults. The study is a reminder of the importance of working out throughout one's lifetime in order to lead a long life with optimal quality.

Key Findings

In the above study, researchers counted on the participation of dozens of healthy adults aged between 60 and 88. Their HIIT exercise routine included four high-intensity sets on a treadmill for four minutes each, followed by a recovery break. Another group of adults (the control group) completed 50 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. The researchers then tested both groups with questions that tapped into the function of newly generated neurons rather than mature neurons. The HIIT group had substantially better scores than the cardio group.

It's Never Too Late To Move

In the study, published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, the researchers stated that "There is urgent need for interventions that reduce dementia risk in healthy older adults. Only recently have we begun to appreciate the role that lifestyle plays, and the greatest modifying risk factor of all is physical activity." HIIT in particular is an affordable workout for seniors and younger people alike, since it can be carried out with little to no expense. Budgeting is often a concern for older people, but seniors who know the importance of staying fit for their heart, muscles and bones, do not need to sign up at an expensive gym. They should, instead, aim for a simple routine comprising half an hour of exercise a day plus strength exercises twice a week. This can be achieved by investing in a starter set of weights and opting for regimes such as brisk walking or taking part in outdoor fitness sessions in nearby green areas.

Affordable HIIT

Seniors have various choices when it comes to HIIT. One of the most affordable and quickest to access, are online workouts, offered for free by a bevy of sites - including the site of the National Institute of Aging. HIIT can, of course, be demanding, which is why the first step for any senior seeking to start the regime, should be to visit their doctor's office. Their doctor should recommend a maximum heart rate to go for and specific exercise regimens that may be right for them if they have a health condition. For instance, HIIT may not be ideal for older adults with osteoarthritis. However, chair yoga - another exercise type known to boost brain and mental health - is a perfect fit.

Exercise Activates Memory Neural Networks In Seniors

In reality, HIIT is not the only road to optimal mental health. A 2019 study by researchers at the University of Maryland found that just one session of exercise boosted activity in the brain circuits associated with memory. These areas - including the hippocampus - tend to shrink in size as we age. Exercise - in this case, performed on an indoor bike - helped activate four vital areas in the brain. The researchers stated that memory function is just like a muscle - it "adapts to repeated use."

If you are an active senior who loves high-intensity interval classes, then know that you are achieving important benefits for your memory. It is important to stay active, however, regardless of whether HIIT is the right regime for you. Under the guidance of your doctor, you can find a workout that helps keep your brain active but is also the right match for your fitness level and personal interests.

This article was written by Jane Grant who is a freelance writer. We thank Jane for this work.

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