Pump up your workouts, pump up your memory, new research suggests.
The study of 95 healthy young adults showed that six weeks of 20-minute bouts of interval training — high-intensity exercise alternated with low-intensity recovery periods — 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 model.
The 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 mental 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.