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Short Bursts of Moderate Exercise Can Immediately Improve Memory: Study

Update Date: Nov 27, 2012 08:27 AM EST

Scientists at the UC Irvine's Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory have discovered that short bursts of moderate exercise can enhance the consolidation of memories in both healthy older adults and in people with mild cognitive impairment.

While many previous studies have focused mainly on the benefits of long-term exercising on mental health and overall health, the current study is the first to examine the immediate effects of a brief exercising bout on memory, Medical Xpress reports.

In their study, the researchers recruited people aged between 50 and 85 years, with and without memory deficits. The participants were asked to look at some pleasant images and were then immediately asked to exercise on a stationary bicycle for six minutes at 70 percent of their maximum capacity, the report said.

An hour later, the participants were asked to recall some things about the images they viewed prior to the exercise. The findings of the tests revealed that there was a significant improvement of memory in those who exercised (cognitively impaired and non-impaired people) when compared to people who did not exercise.

"We found that a single, short instance of moderately intense exercise particularly improved memory in individuals with memory deficits," postdoctoral scholar Sabrina Segal said.

"Because of its implications and the need to better understand the mechanism by which exercise may enhance memory, we're following up this study with an investigation of potential underlying biological factors."

According to Segal, the enhancement of memory may be credited to the exercise-induced release of norepinephrine, a chemical messenger in the brain known to play a strong role in memory modulation.

"The current findings offer a natural and relatively safe alternative to pharmacological interventions for memory enhancement in healthy older individuals as well as those who suffer from cognitive deficits," Segal noted. "With a growing population of the aged, the need for improvement of quality of life and prevention of mental decline is more important than ever before."

The study results appear in the November issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

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