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Little exercise can improve memory, study says

by James Davies

Oluwatobiloba Jaiyeola

A new study has revealed that 10 minutes of light exercise has significant cognitive benefits and can help improve memory function.

The study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Irvine and the Japan’s University of Tsukuba recruited 36 healthy young adults for the study. 

The researchers studied the brains of participants shortly after workout sessions and found better connectivity between the hippocampal dentate gyrus and cortical areas linked to detailed memory processing.

The results of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Michael Yassa, project co-leader and UCI professor and Chancellor’s Fellow of neurobiology & behaviour said, “The hippocampus is critical for the creation of new memories; it’s one of the first regions of the brain to deteriorate as we get older – and much more severely in Alzheimer’s disease.

“Improving the function of the hippocampus holds much promise for improving memory in everyday settings.”

Yassa, the director of UCI’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory said that although previous studies focused on the way exercise promotes the generation of new brain cells in memory regions, the new research demonstrates a more immediate impact: strengthened communication between memory-focused parts of the brain.

He said, “We don’t discount the possibility that new cells are being born, but that’s a process that takes a bit longer to unfold.

“What we observed is that these 10-minute periods of exercise showed results immediately afterward.”

Yassa stresed that a tiny bit of physical activity can go a long way. “It’s encouraging to see more people keeping track of their exercise habits by monitoring the number of steps they’re taking, for example,” he said, “Even short walking breaks throughout the day may have considerable effects on improving memory and cognition.”

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