Even Mild Exercise Improves Memory Function According to a Study

In a research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of California, Irvine and Japan’s University of Tsukuba found that even very light workouts can increase the connections between some parts of the brain that intervene in the formation and storage of memories.

Physical exercise has beneficial effects on neurocognitive functions including hippocampus-dependent episodic memory. Exercise intensity can be assessed according to whether it induces a stress response based on the lactate threshold. 

Recent studies from the same researchers using an animal model that utilizes controlled treadmill running to distinguish stress-free mil exercise from intense exercise showed that mild exercise increases hippocampal neuronal activity and promotes neurogenesis.

Study Results 

In the study included a total of 36 healthy young adults, the researchers were able to discover that a single 10 minute period of mild exertion can yield considerable cognitive benefits.

They used high-resolution functional magnetic resonance to evaluate brain activity, and examined the individual’s brains right after exercise sessions and saw a better connectivity between the hippocampal dentate gyrus and cortical areas that are linked to detailed memory processing. 

The hippocampus is critical in the creation of new memories and is one of the first areas that deteriorate as we get older. The researchers saw that these benefits happened immediately after doing the 10 minute periods of exercise, which shows that even short walking breaks during the day may have a considerable and powerful effect on improving memory and cognition.

The researchers are extending the research by testing older adults who are at greater risk of age-related mental impairment to see if regular, brief and light exercise can have the same positive effect. 


University of California – Irvine. “Even mild physical activity immediately improves memory function: Now you just need to remember to exercise!.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 September 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180924153424.htm>.

Kazuya Suwabe, et al. Rapid stimulation of human dentate gyrus function with acute mild exercise. PNAS. 2018. 115 (41) 10487-10492. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1805668115 

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