Short bursts of high-intensity exercise provide a considerable boost to memory, new research finds.
The study showed that healthy young adults increased their memory performance in a relatively short period of time.
Each exercise session was only 20-minutes long, during which they did short bouts of intense exercise.
Those with the greatest fitness gains saw increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
This is a protein that supports the function, growth and survival of brain cells.
Dr Jennifer Heisz, the study’s first author, said:
“Improvements in this type of memory from exercise might help to explain the previously established link between aerobic exercise and better academic performance.
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, exercise training was compared with a control group among 95 people.
The high-intensity exercise was particularly beneficial to high-interference memory.
When we try to retrieve something from memory, the retrieval process can be hampered by other similar memories.
For example, when trying to remember someone’s name beginning with the letter ‘J’, the memory might return ‘Jack’, ‘James’ and ‘Jeremy’, before you remember the man’s name is ‘Jeff’.
After exercise, people found it easier to recall memories in these sorts of situations.
Dr Heisz said they were now looking at older adults to see if the same findings held true:
“One hypothesis is that we will see greater benefits for older adults given that this type of memory declines with age.
However, the availability of neurotrophic factors also declines with age and this may mean that we do not get the synergistic effects.”
The study was published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (Heisz et al., 2017).