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).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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