It's important to stay active at any age, but it's especially important as we get older in order to stay healthy as long as possible. That's a message that most of us have heard by now – even if we may not always pay attention to it.
Now a new study points out that the benefits of exercise are important for the brain as well as the body. According to a review of the current research on mental deterioration and exercise published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, fitter people score higher on tests of mental agility than less fit people.
The kind of exercise appeared to make a difference. In studies were older people were put on a fitness regimen, aerobic exercise seemed to lead to a bigger improvement in mental function than stretching and toning. (That doesn't mean you should skip stretching and toning, which can have other health benefits.)
The researchers said the connection between fitness and mental acuity was not observed in children or young adults but that may be because this age group generally represents a high point in brain function – so you wouldn't expect to see the same level of improvement with exercise. That could also change as other researchers look at the current generation of young adults, who are generally less active than previous generations.
In the meantime, the message for those of us at midlife is that you need to get moving and keep moving.