The study of 95 healthy young adults showed that six weeks of 20-minute bouts of interval training led to significant improvements in what’s called high-interference memory. An example of this type of memory is distinguishing your car from another of the same make and mode.
Canadian scientists also found these workouts led to increases in a protein involved in the growth, function and survival of brain cells. The results were published in the November issue of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.
The findings could prove important as an aging population leads to higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, according to the researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
“Improvements in this type of memory from exercise might help to explain the previously established link between aerobic exercise and better academic performance,” said study author Jennifer Heisz. She’s an assistant professor in the department of kinesiology at McMaster.
“At the other end of our lifespan, as we reach our senior years, we might expect to see even greater benefits in individuals with memory impairment brought on by conditions such as dementia,” she added in a university news release.
The researchers are now assessing how exercise and metal training affects high-interference memory in older adults. “One hypothesis is that we will see greater benefits for older adults, given that this type of memory declines with age,” Heisz said.
The proteins found in the study were brain-derived neurotrophic factor and insulin-like growth factor. Both of these proteins seem to stimulate production of growth hormone.
Children and adolescents produce vast amounts of human growth hormone. However, as we age, growth hormone is only produced during exercise and when we sleep.
Taking exogenous human growth hormone is very popular, especially in the so-called “anti-aging” clinics. As you well know, I disagree with most, if not all, exogenous hormone use. Human growth hormone can stimulate dramatic growth of cancer cells, especially endocrine tumors like breast and prostate cancer.
However, increasing you own body’s production of human growth hormone through exercise and good sleep habits only has beneficial effects on the endocrine system and apparently memory as well.
The Bottom Line:
This study gives science a better understanding of some of the less well known, but well established benefits of regular exercise. I highly recommend a variety of exercise to reap maximum benefit. For aerobic activity walking, running, cycling and swimming are all excellent. For a more intense workout you can walk-run or go to a spin class that adds short intervals of more intense activity. Rather than just swimming for 30 minutes non-stop, try some interval training. I typically due a 500 meter warm-up, followed by repeat 100 meter swims with a short rest interval between. I gradually increase the speed and the rest interval. I finish with a slow cool down pulling, just 100 meters or so.
Source: November 28, 2017 National Institutes of Health