Anyone over 50 usually notices their memory isn’t what it used to be. However, research has recently found that just 10 minutes of light exercise can help improve memory. 

Memory loss is not uncommon for older adults and its one of the first symptoms of aging noticed. We enter a room and realize we forgot what we came for, we miss dates or appointments creating the need for calendars and reminders to keep us on track, and we “know” that question to the Jeopardy TV show answer yet it never finds its way through the windmills of the mind. Mild memory loss is annoying at times but more severe memory loss should be reviewed with a physician.

Memory is a popular area of research as are the affects of exercise on health. Previous studies in the last couple decades focused on research on exercise and long-term benefits to memory, but at the University of California, Irvine a team of researchers found that memory can be boosted after just ten minutes of intense activity.

First published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, [1] the study noted that healthy young adults aged 20-25 were tested after short bouts of mild exercise using functional MRI scans. The study’s authors reported the brief exercise, “… elevated activity in the hippocampus and the surrounding regions, as well as increased coupling between the hippocampus and cortical regions previously known to support detailed memory processing.” This shows that exercise even in short bursts has positive effects on neurocognitive function the study concludes.

Their abstract at the link below also notes, “Importantly, the magnitude of the enhanced functional connectivity predicted the extent of memory improvement at an individual subject level. These results suggest that brief, very light exercise rapidly enhances hippocampal memory function.” Researchers further stated that mild exercise, such as yoga and tai chi, may improve memory. It was recommended that future studies should test the long-term effects of regular mild exercise on age-related memory loss.


[1] Rapid stimulation of human dentate gyrus function with acute mild exercise. Kazuya Suwabe, Kyeongho Byun, Kazuki Hyodo, Zachariah M. Reagh, Jared M. Roberts, Akira Matsushita, Kousaku Saotome, Genta Ochi, Takemune Fukuie, Kenji Suzuki, Yoshiyuki Sankai, Michael A. Yassa, and Hideaki Soya


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