20 Minutes of Exercise Improves Your Memory

Just when you needed one more reason to put down the remote and hit the gym, a new study claims being active for just 20 minutes can boost your memory. This is far from the first study to show a workout boosts both your physical and mental health, but this paper finds something different. Lead scientist Audrey Duarte wanted to find the immediate effects, if any, of simple leg workouts and brain function. After doing some basic leg exercises for just 20 minutes, participants were able to recall information better than those who did not work out. These new findings are especially encouraging to health experts as it provides a simple way for people to take control of their mental health.

The Long and the Short of It

Numerous studies have found a link between being active and improved mental capacity. These studies usually conclude that exercise causes the heart and lungs to work harder than normal. This means muscle is built and blood flow increases. It’s this increased blood flow which is listed as the cause for improved mental performance, particularly where memory is concerned. Previous studies have been more long term, however, and have shown how a regular exercise routine can improve a person’s chances of being able to recall important information even as they age.

Better Brain Power in 20 Minutes

Duarte set out to determine if those without regular workout regimens stand to benefit in the same way as their active peers. To conduct her study, Duarte and her team recruited a group of college students who aren’t accustomed to hitting the gym every week. These participants were first shown a series of 90 photographs before being asked to perform leg lifts for 20 minutes while a control group were only shown the images without being asked to exercise. Their heart rate and blood pressure were also monitored before, during, and after the exercises. Two days later all participants were asked back to the lab and shown a set of 180 pictures, half of which they had seen two days previously. The students were then asked to point out the images they had seen before. The college students who had performed the resistance leg exercises were ten percent more likely to correctly point out the familiar images than those who hadn’t exercised.

This study is good news on two fronts. First, it proves that two kinds of activity, aerobic and resistance, can improve brain functions. Second, it gives those who aren’t physically able to start a long-term aerobic regimen some hope, particularly aging patients who are already experiencing memory problems. No matter your age or condition, it’s likely you’ll be able to incorporate one of these exercises into your lifestyle and begin boosting your memory. 


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