cognitive tests in middle age. For every additional minute that someone had been able to run as a young adult, he or she could usually remember about one additional word from the lists and make one fewer mistake.
That difference in performance, obviously, is slight, but represents about a year’s worth of difference in what most scientists would consider normal brain ageing, Dr Jacobs said.
So the 50-year-old who could remember one word more than his age-matched fellows would be presumed to have the brain of a 49-year-old, a bonus that potentially could be magnified later, Dr Jacobs added. In essence, the findings suggest that the ability to think well in middle age depends to a surprisingly large degree on your lifestyle as a young adult.
“It looks like the roots of cognitive decline go back decades,” Dr Jacobs said.
Which would be a bummer for anyone who spent his or her early adulthood in happy, heedless physical sloth, if the scientists hadn’t also found that those few of their volunteers who had improved their aerobic fitness in the intervening years now performed better on the cognitive tests than those whose fitness had remained about the same or declined.
“It’s a cliché, but it really is never too late to start exercising,” Dr Jacobs said, if you wish to sharpen your thinking skills.