The brain health of older adults is the focus of a new study out of Western University looking at how to improve cognitive function in a very easy way.

As part of the study, researchers investigated how exercise may impact the brain health of older adults.

Seventeen older adults over the age of 50 took part in this study, which consisted of a mix of physical and cognitive tasks.

“We had older adults perform an ocular-motor task that allowed us to assess executive function and we had them do that before they began a ten-minute bout of exercise at these three different intensities. And then we had them re-preform the ocular motor task,” says Dr. Mathew Heath, Western kinesiology professor and senior author of the study.

Heath says the results of the tests were promising.

“We found that when the task that the older adult performed was cognitively challenging and involved an executive function...the adult improved function post exercise.”

Andrea Petrella, a member of the research team, says the benefits could be realized even in older adults who had no previous exercise experience, and it didn’t matter the fitness level of the participant.

“If an older adult goes at, say, a reasonable pace on a walk during the day...if they even do that for 10 minutes they can see improvement in executive function, so they can drive easier and they may find they can continue their independent activities.”

Petrella adds the benefits don’t just stop there.

“We’ve looked at individuals with early cognitive complaints, to further down on the spectrum towards Alzheimer’s disease and through chronic exercise we’ve found that there is improved executive function after six months.”

The research team is hoping these findings will help encourage older adults to become more active in their daily lives.