DON MILLS, Ontario, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Regular exercise and a healthy diet may result in higher cognitive function, scientists suggest in a large study of Canadian adults.
The study, published in the Journal of Public Health, builds on prior scholarship linking diet and exercise with a reduced risk of chronic health conditions. Research on older adults has suggested these habits can delay cognitive decline associated with aging. In the new study, scientists say younger and older adults can enjoy the same benefits.
"Factors such as adhering to a healthy lifestyle including a diet that is rich in essential nutrients, regular exercise engagement, and having an adequate cardiovascular profile all seem to be effective ways by which to preserve cognitive function and delay cognitive decline," study author Alina Cohen explained in a press release.
Researchers examined cross-sectional data from 45,522 adults from the 2012 annual component of the Canadian Community Health Survey. The team used a 6-level question of the Health Utilities Index to determine cognitive function such as memory, thinking and problem solving. Levels of physical activity and daily intake of fruits and vegetables were also noted.
Individuals who reported higher levels of physical activity in addition to a healthier diet scored higher on cognitive function. Scientists said mediation analysis suggests exercise may be in part responsible for the relationship between higher fruit and vegetable consumption and improved cognitive performance.
"It is pertinent that we develop a better understanding of the lifelong behaviors that may contribute to cognitive decline in late life by implementing a life-span approach whereby younger, middle-aged, and older adults are collectively studied, and where lifestyle risk factors are evaluated prior to a diagnosis of dementia," Cohen added.