Health experts have been saying for years that physical activity is good for both body and mind. But there hasn’t been much in the way of definitive advice about how much time you should spend exercising to reap those brain benefits. Now, researchers have a pretty good idea. A study published in the journal Neurology suggests that exercising for about two hours a week is associated with better thinking skills. To arrive at that number, researchers reviewed 98 clinical trials involving more than 11,000 older adults. They found that people who exercised at least 52 hours over a six-month period, for an hour each session, improved their thinking skills.
The analysis showed that people who exercised less than 34 hours over that same period did not show any improvement in thinking skills. The results applied both to healthy adults and those who had already started showing some cognitive decline. While exercise wasn’t associated with improved memory, the best exercisers did achieve some improvement in attention, time management, and brain processing speed. The best results appear to come from aerobic exercise programs of moderate intensity. But even low-intensity workouts were associated with improved thinking skills over time. The key, researchers noted, was exercising consistently for at least several months.