Even Minimum Amount Of Physical Activity Improves Memory Immediately. Individuals who incorporate some yoga or tai chi into their daily routines may be more likely to recall where they put their keys. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine and the University of Tsukuba in Japan discovered that even relatively mild workouts can strengthen connectivity between brain regions involved in memory development and storage.
The researchers discovered that a single 10-minute period of mild exertion can result in significant cognitive advantages in 36 healthy young individuals. The scientists investigated people’ brains shortly after exercise sessions using high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging and discovered increased connection between the hippocampus dentate gyrus and cortical areas associated with precise memory processing.
Their findings appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today.
“The hippocampus is crucial for memory formation; it is one of the first regions of the brain to decline as we age – and much more severely in Alzheimer’s disease,” said co-leader Michael Yassa, a UCI professor and Chancellor’s Fellow of neurobiology and behavior. “Increasing the hippocampus’s function offers great potential for improving memory in everyday situations.”
The neuroscientists discovered that the degree of enhanced connection was predictive of recall enhancement.
Yassa, director of UCI’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory and the newly launched UCI Brain Initiative, explained that while previous research has focused on how exercise promotes the generation of new brain cells in memory regions, this new study demonstrates a more immediate effect: strengthened communication between memory-focused regions of the brain.
“We do not rule out the potential that new cells are being born, but this is a slower process,” he explained. “What we discovered is that these 10-minute bouts of exercise produced instant results.”
A little bit of physical exertion, Yassa emphasized, may go a long way. “It’s great to see more people keeping track of their exercise habits — for example, by counting their steps,” he said. “Even brief walking breaks throughout the day may have a significant influence on memory and cognition improvement.”
Yassa and his colleagues at the University of California, Irvine and the University of Tsukuba are extending this line of research by testing older adults who are at a higher risk of developing age-related mental impairment and conducting long-term interventions to determine whether daily, brief, light exercise performed for several weeks or months has a beneficial effect on the brain structure and function of these subjects.
“Clearly, it is critical to establish the optimal exercise prescription for the elderly in order to provide suggestions for preventing cognitive deterioration,” he stated.