• Studies have shown that exercise has a positive effect on memory and brain health.
  • New research has linked vigorous exercise to improved memory, planning and organization.
  • The data shows that just 10 minutes a day can have a big impact.

Experts have known the physical benefits of exercise for years, but how exercise affects your brain has been under-researched. Now a new study shows exercise is the best for mental health — and it can help with everything from your memory to your ability to organize.

The study published in Journal of Epidemiology and Community HealthIt tracked data from nearly 4,500 people in the UK who fell over a week with activity monitors strapped to their laps 24 hours a day. Researchers analyzed how their activity level affected their short-term memory, problem-solving skills, and ability to process things.

The study found that people who did moderate to vigorous physical activity for less than 10 minutes had significantly higher cognitive outcomes compared to people who spent most of their time sitting, lying down, or doing sedentary activities. (Vigorous exercise It generally includes things like running, swimming, cycling and dancing. moderate exercise (Includes brisk walking and anything that makes the heart beat faster.)

The researchers found that people who did these types of exercise performed better. Working memory (the small amount of information that can be stored in your mind and used in the performance of cognitive tasks) and the greatest impact was on executive processes such as planning and organization.

On the flip side: People who spent more time sleeping, sitting, or doing moderate to vigorous physical activity had a 1% to 2% decline in cognitive performance.

“Efforts should be made to maintain moderate and vigorous physical activity or strengthen it instead of other behaviors,” the researchers wrote in their summary.

But the study wasn’t perfect — it used data from a previously collected group, so the researchers didn’t know the broad details of the participants’ health or their long-term cognitive health. Lead study author John Mitchell, a doctoral student at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health at University College London, said the findings suggest: “People who are physically active may, on average, be more cognitively active.” But, he added, the findings “may indicate that even small changes in our daily lives can have a ripple effect on our cognition.”

So why might there be a connection between exercise and good memory? Here’s what you need to know.

Why can exercise improve your memory and thinking?

This isn’t the first study to find a link between exercise and improved cognition. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifically states that online exercise can improve cognitive health, memory, emotional balance and problem solving.

Regular exercise can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. A scientific analysis of 128,925 people published in the journal Preventive medicine In the year It found that by 2020 cognitive decline could double in inactive adults compared to their more active counterparts.

But the “why” behind it is “not entirely clear,” he says Ryan Glatt, CPT, senior mental health coach and director of the FitBrain program at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, CA. However, according to Glatt’s previous studies, “various levels of activity can affect brain blood flow and cognitive ability.” Meaning, exercising at a vigorous clip will stimulate blood flow to your brain and improve your ability to think clearly in the process.

“It could be related to different factors related to brain development and skeletal muscle,” said Steven K. Malin, an associate professor in the department of kinesiology and health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine. “Studies often show that aerobically fit individuals have denser brain tissue, which indicates a better connection between tissue and health.”

Exercise affects the health and function of skeletal muscles (the muscles that connect to your bones), which are thought to release hormones that communicate with your brain — cells that act as messengers of information, says Malin. “This can also promote the growth and regeneration of brain cells that help with memory and cognition,” he said.

Currently CDC He advises. Most adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.

The best exercises for your memory

In general, the CDC recommends that you do the following to squeeze more exercise into your life to improve your mental health:

  • Dance
  • Do squats or walk in place while watching TV
  • Start walking
  • Use the steps
  • Walk your dog if you have oneA study (They found that dog owners walk an average of 22 minutes each day.)

However, recent research suggests that more vigorous activities are actually better for your brain. The study doesn’t specifically say which exercises are best—”we don’t know what kinds of activities individuals do while wearing an accelerometer,” Glatt explains. However, getting your heart rate up is key.

It may include doing exercises such as:

Malin’s advice: “Sit and rest throughout the day by having functional ‘snacks’.” This might mean putting on a straitjacket for a minute or two, going up the stairs quickly, or trying to get a replacement. Six to 10 minutes of sedentary behavior per day. “Alternatively, trying a 10-minute walk can go a long way,” he says.

Corinne Miller's head

Corinne Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health, and relationships and lifestyle, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamor and more. She has a master’s degree from an American university, lives by the beach, and hopes to one day own a teacup and taco truck.

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