A new study at the University of Minnesota has found that cardiovascular exercise in your twenties could give you better memory and thinking power decades later, even after adjusting for factors such as smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Study participants, who were recruited in 1985, ran as long as they could on treadmills. The average maximum running time was 10 minutes.
Researchers recorded how long each person could maintain running at their top speed.
Over the next 25 years, there were seven more follow-up checks.
Reuters reports that in the last follow-up in 2010, researchers tested the participants' mental functioning with three tests of visual memory, reaction speed and the kind of mental control needed to answer a trick question, such as identifying the color of the word yellow written in green ink (correct answer: "green").
The study showed people who ran for longer on the treadmill performed better on the tests 25 years later.
And people who had smaller time differences in their treadmill test 20 years later were more likely to perform better on the executive function test than those who had bigger differences.
"Many studies show the benefits to the brain of good heart health," says study author Dr David Jacobs.
"This is one more important study that should remind young adults of the brain health benefits of cardio fitness activities such as running, swimming, biking or cardio fitness classes."
Dr Jacobs says a concept was emerging of total fitness, incorporating social, physical and mental aspects of health.