Doing moderate exercise several times a week is the best way to keep the mind sharp if you're over 50, research suggests.
Thinking and memory skills were most improved when people exercised the heart and muscles on a regular basis, a review of 39 studies found. This remained true in those who already showed signs of cognitive decline.
Taking up exercise at any age was worthwhile for the mind and body, the Australian researchers said.
Exercises such as T'ai Chi were recommended for people over the age of 50 who couldn't manage other more challenging forms of exercise, the study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine said.
Physical activity has long been known to reduce the risk of a number of diseases, including type-2 diabetes and some cancers, and it is thought to play a role in warding off the brain's natural decline as we enter middle age.
The theory is that through exercise the brain receives a greater supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients that boost its health as well as a growth hormone that helps the formation of new neurons and connections.
In this analysis of previous studies, researchers from the University of Canberra looked at the effects of at least four weeks of structured physical exercise on the brain function of adults. lead for adult health and wellbeing at Public Health England, Justin Varney said any physical activity was good for brain and body.
"Whilst every 10 minutes of exercise provides some benefit, doing 150 minutes a week cuts the chances of depression and dementia by a third, and boosts mental health at any age," he said.
"Doing both aerobic and strengthening exercises leads to a greater variety of health benefits," he added.
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