Getting just 2 minutes of exercise before studying or working can help you perform better, finds study
Devoting time to regular physical activities such as running or cycling can do wonders for your brain, especially before you study or work. Young adults may see an improvement in memory and learning after exercising for as little as two minutes, a new review suggests.
"Exercise makes you smart," says co-author Dr Peter Blomstrand of Sweden's County Hospital Ryhov and Jönköping University. Exercising for two minutes to 1 hour at moderate to high intensity levels improves attention, concentration, and learning and memory functions. These effects lasted for two hours. Dr Blomstrand and his colleagues arrived at this conclusion after reviewing 13 previous studies.
The types of exercise that were studied involved walking, running and bicycling in individuals between 18 to 35 years of age. "Identifying optimal exercise strategies may help students to enhance their learning and memory," says the study.
Children who exercise regularly and have a high aerobic capacity have better mental abilities than those who do not exercise. Aerobic capacity refers to the body's capacity to provide oxygen to muscles during an intense physical session. Previous studies have linked regular exercise with improved mental abilities in children, teenagers and the elderly. However, researchers say there is a lack of data on its effects on young adults aged between 18 and 35.
The review found that exercising before working or studying may help. "This systematic review shows that aerobic, physical exercise before encoding improves learning and memory functions in young adults," the authors say. Encoding is the first step in learning, during which new information is processed in the brain.
Exercise increases heart rate, and that, in turn, sends more oxygen into the brain. It also releases hormones and helps brain cells form new connections — both of which are beneficial. Furthermore, it also improves mathematical and arithmetic ability.
Lifestyle changes like regular exercise and a healthy diet may lower dementia risk. It is likely to help older people who are already experiencing a decline in mental abilities, according to another new study.
"It looks like you can reduce your risk of Alzheimer's, even when you are at an older age and experiencing cognitive decline," Mitchell McMaster, a graduate student from the ANU Centre for Research on Aging, Health and Wellbeing, says in a statement. "It is a really good indication that if you modify your lifestyle, there is still hope to reduce dementia risk, which is a really exciting finding for this field of study."
The study involved 119 participants, who were monitored by dietitians and exercise physiologists. They had to follow the Mediterranean diet, an exercise regime, along with brain training for six months. For comparison, the study also included a control group, who completed online education to make changes to their lifestyle independently.
At the end of the study, the team saw that individuals who received support showed improvements in mental abilities when compared to their independent counterparts. "People who reported having cognitive decline or mild symptoms relating to Alzheimer's disease were able to turn it around with active lifestyle changes relating to exercise, a healthy diet, and brain training," McMaster added. "Through greater research and investigation into this area, we could see some fantastic developments for the future of Alzheimer's prevention."