How Working Out Can Boost Your Memory

If you're looking for an excuse to skip the gym today — this isn't it. Working out can decrease your risk of memory loss, a new study shows. 🧠💪

Exercise Can Help Combat Alzheimer's disease

What if one single workout could boost our memory? That’s the promising result of a new University of Maryland study, led by Dr. J. Carson Smith. Dr. Smith is focused on understanding how exercise and physical activity affect human brain function and mental health. Dr. Smith's investigations use magnetic resonance imaging and electroencephalography to examine brain function in people at risk for Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Smith, his team of investigators, and collaborators are interested in the potential efficacy for exercise to affect brain function and memory in healthy older adults at genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease, as well as in patients diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment. The ultimate goal is to provide evidence for exercise to delay conversion to Alzheimer's disease and protect against age-related cognitive decline. In addition, Dr. Smith examines how acute and chronic exercise or physical activity may alter emotional reactivity, attention allocation, and cognitive function among patients with anxiety and/or depressive mood disorders.

Dr. Carson notes, “We found that the certain areas of the brain that are involved in semantic memory increased their activation, not all of them, but a few did and one importantly is the hippocampus of the brain increased its activation, which we know is very important for memory and is important for the long term maintenance of memory, because it's attacked early in the stages of Alzheimer's disease and when people lose memory abilities.”

26 volunteers were asked to identify names, including famous ones such as George Clooney or Frank Sinatra. The semantic memory includes our knowledge of the world and language. In their earlier study, the scientists discovered that, like muscles, our brain’s memory center responds more efficiently with continued exercise — using less energy for the same work. But, after one single workout, the scientists discovered a spike of activity in the brain circuits linked to memory. The study adds evidence that exercise can have rapid effects and help maintain our memories. The scientists are now looking to examine the effects of exercise on people at genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease.