In a new paper titled Distinct Effects of Acute Exercise and Breaks in Sitting on Working Memory and Executive Function in Older Adults penned by researchers from the University of Western Australia the data presented within lengthens research on the harmful effects of habitual sedentary behavior. We’re used to the grim implications of inactivity being presented in the long-term, but this new study suggests that the rewards associated with being physical, are not only observable in the immediate future, but they also provide boosts to cognition.
The authors uncovered a link between early morning bouts of exercise and an acute improvement to cognitive function throughout the day. The cohort study reports, “A morning bout of moderate-intensity exercise improves serum BDNF and working memory or executive function in older adults, depending on whether or not subsequent sitting is also interrupted with intermittent light-intensity walking.”
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The study of women and men, between the ages of 55 and 80, intended to examine the effect of thirty minutes of moderate intensity morning exercise on a treadmill, when coupled with intermittent walking breaks throughout the day. Subjects that began their day with 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, in addition to taking three minute-light intensity walking breaks, every half an hour, over the course of eight hours, experienced a significant boost to short-term working memory and executive function, observed via “Cogstate Computerized Cognitive Assessment tests.” Conversely, extended periods of sedentary behavior consistently resulted in lower scores and impaired working memory. One of the study’s lead authors, Michael Wheeler, believes that the real success of the new report is the way it emphasizes the monumental effect subtle changes to routine can yield.
It all centers around a protein essential to the growth of information-transmitting neurons in the brain. This protein became elevated, for eight hours in the participants that employed the exercise regimen cited above.
“This study highlights how relatively simple changes to your daily routine could have a significant benefit to your cognitive health. It also reveals that one day we may be able to do specific types of exercise to enhance specific cognitive skills such as memory or learning, ” Wheeler explains.
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