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Mobile technologies have confirmed the connection of physical activity and brain function

In middle-aged and elderly people, daily exercise improves brain activity. Scientists have learned to track it remotely.

Most people dream of not only living to old age, but at the same time remain mentally healthy and active people. And looking for different ways to keep the brain working.

The fact that physical activity contributes to the maintenance of cognitive activity in old age has been known for a long time. This time, scientists were interested in whether it is possible to prove the connection between physical activity and maintaining brain function using mobile technologies designed to help people in the era of a pandemic.

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The new study, from UC San Diego School of Medicine, adds to a host of other studies linking physical activity to cognitive performance. But the main result of this study is the proven effectiveness of using handheld technology to discover this connection.

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MHealth technologies can reliably measure the physical activity and cognitive functions of a person when he leads his normal life. This is exceptionally convenient in a pandemic era and greatly expands the generalizability of the study and its scope. Classical study methods are usually associated with long-term personal presence of participants in hospitals or research centers and, accordingly, with high risks of contracting coronavirus and other infections.

The study involved 90 middle-aged and older adults (mean age 59 years) with various comorbidities (eg, risk of cardiovascular disease or HIV) and various levels of baseline cognitive function (from normal to impaired). Participants wore accelerometers (sensors for measuring acceleration) during physical activity and completed mobile cognitive testing remotely from their homes.

“Future lifestyle intervention really needs to be remote. The pandemic has made this especially clear,” said study author Ann Moore.

The study showed that on days when physical activity increased, participants aged 50 to 74 were more effective at performing tasks, and on days when their physical activity decreased, their cognitive performance also improved. At the same time, the dynamics of the process is noted: the alternation of physical activity and rest.

The relationship between physical activity and improvement in brain function persisted when the scientists adjusted the calculations for various medical conditions in the participants.


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Scientists have concluded that cognitive tests on a smartphone, which participants go through twice a day, can be a sensitive tool to monitor cognitive changes associated with various physical activities.

Thus, the study shows that physical activity has both acute and chronic beneficial effects on cognitive function. And mHealth technologies help to correctly measure this activity without disrupting the course of life of research participants.

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