“There is over­whelm­ing evi­dence that exer­cise pro­duces large cog­ni­tive gains and helps fight demen­tia”, says the Har­vard Uni­ver­sity psy­chol­o­gist John Ratey, author of the 2008 book on the sub­ject, Spark.

While Ratey pro­pounds the “very clear” link between exer­cise and men­tal acu­ity, say­ing that even mod­er­ate exer­cise pushes back cog­ni­tive decline by “any­where from 10 to 15 years”, the National Insti­tutes of Health are more cautious:

Look­ing at reduc­ing the risk of “cog­ni­tive decline in older adults,” [the NIH] wrote: “Pre­lim­i­nary evi­dence sug­gests a ben­e­fi­cial asso­ci­a­tion of phys­i­cal activ­ity and a range of leisure activ­i­ties (e.g., club mem­ber­ship, reli­gious ser­vices, paint­ing, gar­den­ing) with the preser­va­tion of cog­ni­tive func­tion.” A few small stud­ies showed that “increased phys­i­cal activ­ity may help main­tain or improve cog­ni­tive func­tion in nor­mal adults”.

I’ve writ­ten before about the exten­sive cog­ni­tive ben­e­fits of exer­cise, but as Noah Gray (via) says, “it never hurts to rein­force the message”.