Sustained aerobic exercise (running) grows new brain cell, but lifting weights does not, a new study concludes.
The research on rats compared three different groups:
- Sustained aerobic exercise
- High-intensity interval training
- Lifting weights
It found that rats who did sustained aerobic exercise for six weeks had developed new brain cells in their hippocampus — the area of the brain vital for memory.
Compared with a control group, they had 2-3 times as many neurons in the hippocampus.
Interval training only had a small effect and lifting weights had no effect on growing new brain cells.
The study’s authors conclude:
“Our results suggest physical exercise promotes AHN [adult hippocampal neurogenesis] most if it is aerobic and sustained, and especially when accompanied by a heightened genetic predisposition for response to physical exercise.”
While this study was carried out in rats, there is plenty of evidence for the positive effects of exercise on neurogenesis (growing new brain cells).
Exercise is certainly beneficial for memory:
For older people, any type of exercise can be beneficial:
This is one of the first studies, though, to look at the type of exercise that is effective.
The study was published in the Journal of Physiology: London (Nokia et al., 2016).
→ Try one of PsyBlog’s ebooks, all written by Dr Jeremy Dean:
Image credit: marcovdz