Not a big fan of exercise? Trust me, I get it. I’m NOT one of those folks who was born liking to work out either.
But it’s an indisputable fact that our bodies were made to move. And that we have to continue to be active to stay in good health.
Honestly, I think where we went wrong was thinking about everything as “exercise’ or a “workout.” Because if you commit to MOVING every day and not “exercising,” it instantly becomes much more manageable.
In fact, making that shift in your thinking can turn an obligation into a habit. And that’s especially true when you make that movement something you simply enjoy doing.
So why all the exercise… oh, I mean movement talk today? Well, new research out of California and Japan has revealed something rather astonishing about our memory.
And if you, like me, worry about those increasing “senior moments,” when your brain feels like it’s taking a mini-vacation, you need to know about this.
10 minutes to better brain function?
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, and Japan’s University of Tsukuba set up a little experiment. They recruited 36 healthy volunteers for a study on memory function.
All participants were randomly assigned to either sit quietly for 10 minutes or perform 10 minutes of what was described as very light intensity, stress-free exercise.
Afterward, they were hooked up to a high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging machine or, more simply, an MRI. Then they were shown a series of pictures and asked specific questions about them designed to stimulate and light up parts of the brain.
Eventually, on alternating days, all the volunteers performed both the idle and exercise portions of the experiment. And to be honest, the results were pretty stunning.
I’ll tell you about those in just a moment. But first, I want to briefly talk about what we already knew about exercise and memory.
Exercise improves memory
You’ve probably heard of the hippocampus before. It’s located deep within your brain in an area called the temporal lobe.
The hippocampus is vital for forming new memories. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the first regions in the brain that starts to deteriorate as we age. And in the brains of folks with Alzheimer’s, that damage is on fast forward leading to rapid memory loss.
So, as you can imagine, the hippocampus is an area of the brain that neuroscientists are particularly interested in improving. Because if you can improve the function of the hippocampus as we age, you can also improve memory.
From prior research, we already knew that exercise can promote the generation of new brain cells in the memory regions of your brain. This is exciting news on its own.
But, frankly, the generation of those new brain cells takes time. So finding something that triggers a more immediate change that people can see in real time, improving their quality of life, is HUGE.
And that’s exactly what the study found.
The testing showed that, shortly after exercise, there are better connections between the hippocampal dentate gyrus and cortical areas in the brain, which are linked to detailed memory processing.
IMMEDIATE memory boost with light exercise
Now don’t worry. You don’t need to remember that jargon. You just need to know that the 10 minutes of VERY LIGHT intensity exercise led to immediately measurable improvements in the volunteer’s memories.
Those improved brain connections led to better recall. In real life that could help us do things like remember where we left our car keys or not forget to grab a half-gallon of milk when we’re at the grocery store.
In the study, the participants spent those 10 minutes on a recumbent-type bike on a light setting. But you can spend yours doing anything active that you enjoy.
Taking a walk around the neighborhood or local mall, playing some golf or dancing around the dining room table to your favorite Golden Oldies all count. Just be sure to get in at least 10 minutes of light movement daily.
Need a little inspiration? These 5 easy and effective exercises for out-of-shape beginners are a great place to start. And if you want to mix things up, these better balance moves can help make you steadier on your feet while you improve your memory at the same time.