Study associates high-intensity exercise with improved memory

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The positive effects of exercise on health has been studied, researched and officially proven to be highly beneficial.

Now, a study has added another benefit to the list saying that it not only makes you calmer and happier, but also boosts memory.

The McMaster University findings could have implications for an aging population which is grappling with the growing problem of catastrophic diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Previous studies have associated regular exercise with boosting brain power and overall mental well-being.

Scientists have found that six weeks of intense exercise – short bouts of interval training over the course of 20 minutes – showed significant improvements in what is known as high-interference memory, which, for example, allows us to distinguish our car from another of the same make and model.

The findings are important because memory performance of the study participants, who were all healthy young adults, increased over a relatively short period of time, said researchers.

They also found that participants who experienced greater fitness gains also experienced greater increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth, function and survival of brain cells.

“Improvements in this type of memory from exercise might help to explain the previously established link between aerobic exercise and better academic performance,” noted lead author Jennifer Heisz. “At the other end of our lifespan, as we reach our senior years, we might expect to see even greater benefits in individuals with memory impairment brought on by conditions such as dementia.”

For the study, 95 participants completed six weeks of exercise training, combined exercise and cognitive training or no training (the control group which did neither and remained sedentary). Both the exercise and combined training groups improved performance on a high-interference memory task, while the control group did not.

The study is published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

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