First off don’t equate sex with exercise; they are not one in the same especially for older adults who need a boost in brain power.
More frequent sex is associated with better brain function in older people, says a study out of universities of Coventry and Oxford.
There are scores of studies over the past decade showing that more exercise among older adults boosts brain function via multiple pathways.
Can having more sex produce the same results in brain function?
The Coventry/Oxford study (Journals of Gerontology) reports that older people who had more sex scored higher on verbal fluency tests and a test to measure ability to visually perceive objects and spaces between them.
• 73 people aged 50 to 83 took part.
• Subjects filled out a sex questionnaire of how often over the past 12 months + questions on general health/lifestyle.
• The participants took brain function tests.
The verbal fluency test showed the highest effect in association with more frequent sex.
The report points out that a study in 2016 showed that sexually active older adults scored higher on cognitive tests than senior people who abstained.
The Coventry/Oxford study zeroed in on frequency rather than having sex vs. no sex.
Dr. Hayley Wright, the lead researcher, says in the report, “We can only speculate whether this [results] is driven by social or physical elements.”
More research is needed to unearth the reason for the association between frequent sex and better brain function in older people. Perhaps fitter people who exercise are more likely to engage in more sex?
Brain Function in Older People Who Exercise but Abstain from Sex vs. Older Sexually Active People Who Never Exercise
Wow, that would make one heck of a study! But this comparison has not been researched. However, one thing is for sure:
The brain boost effect of exercise also brings with it all the physiological benefits such as stronger pumping action of the heart, more efficient blood vessels, better blood sugar control, denser bones and stronger joints.
So if you want to choose between increasing sex frequency and taking up exercise to boost brain health, opt for the exercise. Sex will not improve bone or cardiovascular health or trim belly fat.
Aerobics + Strength Training Boost Brain Health in Older People
The British Journal of Sports Medicine reports that a review of 39 studies concludes that combining cardio with resistance exercise creates wonders for the older brain – even if the older brain wasn’t in the greatest shape to begin with.
• Strength training improved memory and executive function, and cardio exercise boosted cognitive function as well.
• Even a “gentle” form of exercise, tai chi, improved brain health.
The report states “that an exercise programme with components of aerobic and resistance type training at least 45 minutes per session, on as many days of the week as possible, is beneficial to cognitive function.”
If that isn’t enough, a Netherlands study headed by Maaike Angevaren says that aerobic exercise boosts brain power.
Sex is not aerobic exercise. Aerobics is continuous and rhythmic activity that strengthens the cardiorespiratory system.
• A University of Kansas study led by Jeffrey Burns, MD, shows that the more that an older adult exercises, the more this improves their brain.
• Functional MRI showed improvements in brain health of sedentary older people who took up exercise for 12 weeks, says a study headed by Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas.
Sex vs. Exercise for Improving Brain Health of Older Adults
• You can exercise just about any time you want.
• You can’t just grab a sex partner any time you want.
• A sexual relationship has the potential for emotional trauma.
• An exercise program will never “burn” or backstab you.
• Relying on sex for brain health means you must have a reliable partner.
• Relying on exercise for brain health means you must have a reliable pair of footwear or a pair of dumbbells.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.