Does staying physically active improve cognitive function, or does high cognitive function enable older people to stay active and live more healthfully in general? Both, according to a recent study in Frontiers in Neuroscience, which looked at 4,555 British people, ages 50 and older, and analyzed the relationship between physical activity and executive function (the ability to solve problems, set and meet goals, and exert self-control).
It found that over a six-year period older people who were physically active tended to retain high executive function; the researchers controlled for variables such as age, gender, education, and health. Conversely, people with high executive function were more likely to stay physically active. It’s a virtuous circle.
“In addition to benefiting from engagement in healthy behaviors such as physical activity and healthy diet, executive function is also likely to be necessary for the initiation and maintenance of such behaviors,” according to the study.