"Exercise is manageable for many older people, and we saw cognitive benefits compared to those who don't," said study senior author Tomohiro Okura, a professor at Japan's University of Tsukuba.
"However, it's worth noting that we discovered exercise's benefits increase — by 14.1 percentage points in our study — when done with others and at least twice a week," Okura said in a university news release.
Beginning in 2017, the study collected data on nearly 4,400 older adults in a city 62 miles north of central Tokyo for four years.
The researchers examined the data to determine the relationship between cognitive (or mental) decline, general exercise, and exercise with others.
Individuals who exercised by themselves twice or more per week reduced their risk of developing impaired thinking or learning skills by more than 15%.
Those who exercised with others twice or more per week saw a 29% reduction.
Other physical and mental benefits of exercise include the reduction of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes, according to the study's authors in background notes.
According to the researchers, socializing has been shown to reduce the development of cognitive disorders.
With the global number of dementia patients expected to exceed 150 million by 2050, there is a growing interest in activities that can help reduce dementia cases, such as exercise and socializing.
"The majority of the older adults in our study exercised on their own, and we can see cognitive benefits when they do so at least twice a week," Okura explained. "However, incorporating a social component may make regular exercise even more preventive. Adopting this practice could be extremely beneficial."
More research on exercise intensity and type is needed, according to the researchers.
The findings were published online recently in Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics.