Study: Exercise, Nutrition Benefit Physical, Cognitive Health

In addition to increasing physical power, physical training reduced participants’ body fat percentage and increased their oxygen-uptake efficiency.

A new study has found that a 12-week exercise regimen combined with good nutrition improves both physical and cognitive function, with added gains among study participants who received a twice-daily nutrient beverage.

In the study, 148 active-duty Air Force airmen were randomly assigned between 2 groups. All participants performed a 12-week exercise regimen, but only 1 group received a twice-daily nutrient beverage that included protein, the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, lutein, phospholipids, vitamin D, B vitamins and other micronutrients, and a muscle-promoting compound. The other group received a placebo beverage with no added nutrients. The exercise regimen combined strength training and high-intensity interval aerobic fitness challenges.

According to a press release, both groups experienced improved strength, endurance, mobility, and stability, as well as increases in several measures of cognitive function. At the end of the 12 weeks, both groups had improved episodic memory and processed information more efficiently, and they performed better on tests that required them to solve problems they had never encountered before.

“Those who also consumed the nutritional supplement saw all of these improvements and more. For example, they were better able to retain new information in their working memory and had quicker responses on tests of fluid intelligence than those taking the placebo,” said lead investigator Aron Barbey, PhD, in a statement.

In addition to improved physical power, the physical training reduced participants’ body fat percentage and increased their oxygen-uptake efficiency. The participants who received the nutritional drink also performed better on the tests of fluid intelligence compared with their peers who took the placebo.

“Our work motivates the design of novel multimodal interventions that incorporate both aerobic fitness training and nutritional supplementation, and illustrates that their benefits extend beyond improvements in physical fitness to enhance multiple measures of cognitive function,” Barbey concluded.


Exercise and nutrition regimen benefits physical, cognitive health [news release]. EurekAlert!; October 19, 2020. Accessed October 22, 2020.

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