The study group consisted of almost 3,000 healthy participants with an average age of 25. Researchers tested the cardio fitness of all the participants by putting them on a treadmill and effectively seeing how long they could last (or until they became exhausted or out of breath). They did the cardio test in the first year of the study and again 20 years later.
Cognitive tests to measure memory and thinking skills were taken at the start of the study and 25 years later.
The participants who ran longer on the treadmill performed better at the cognitive tests after 25 years – even adjusting for factors such as smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol. The participants who also had the smallest differences in their treadmill tests 20 years apart were also more likely to perform better on the cognitive test than those with the biggest differences i.e. those who maintained a level of fitness kept their brain, those who let their fitness slide over the 20 year gap lost some of their cognitive ability.
This combines with a growing body of research that the health of the brain is highly influenced by the health of the rest of the body.
A lot of people associate a need to do cardio with weight loss. However, cardio fitness is a measure of how efficient the body is at absorbing oxygen and transporting it to the muscles during exercise – skinny people who don’t do cardio and get out of breath climbing the stairs are going to suffer the sort of cognitive decline as the overweight people who don’t do cardio and get out of breath climbing the stairs.
What this research is really saying is that everyone should be doing cardio if they want to keep their brain functioning effectively later on.
If you are worried about a zombie apocalypse, this adds an extra reason why you should focus on your cardio fitness:
1. You need cardio to be able to outrun zombies.
2. You ALSO need cardio to have a fully functioning brain 20 years from now in the post-apocalyptic wasteland where you can’t assume there will be computers and technology to provide you with friendly reminders as to where the zombies are.
If you want to start cardio training for the apocalypse, then swimming, cycling and running should form a part of your regular exercise routine.
Going to be good for nostalgia since you probably won’t find many well maintained swimming pools after the apocalypse – though it might come in handy should you need to swim across a river sometime.
Could be useful when everyone runs out of petrol – though mountain bikes might be a little more useful than road bikes with their delicate tires. On the other hand, any bike will do when you’re being chased by zombies.
Going to be a general purpose cardio skill you should get used to – it’s going to be the most common method of escaping zombies after the apocalypse so you might as well get used to it.
So save your brain – do some cardio!