Exercise leads to better problem-solving
Even two minutes of exercise per day could be enough to improve your brain health and memory, a new study has found.
Researchers looking at past studies found that any amount of exercise, even if it is just a short walk, was good for the brains of people aged between 18 and 35.
The UK’s National Health Service recommends that adults do at least two hours of moderate activity per week, but science suggests that a lot less could still be worthwhile. Exercise was found to be good for the brain because it made nerve cells more active and increased dopamine levels, helping to sharpen focus and memory.
The effects after short periods of exercise were found to last for at least two hours in the tests, while the researchers said intense exercise brought long-term improvement.
As well as boosting brain health, exercise at any level is proven to bring health benefits, including a strengthened heart and lungs, and a lowered risk of longterm illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
The Swedish researchers who did the study suggested that their findings, which were specific to young people, could help them to learn and perform better at school and at work. The review looked at people aged between 18 and 35 who exercised by walking, running or cycling at moderate to high intensity. Researchers analysed the subjects’ brain power after exercise, testing them on things such as remembering a list of 15 words. Those who exercised in bursts of two minutes, 15 minutes, half an hour or an hour all improved on tests and showed better concentration and problem-solving skills.
Findings from 13 other studies were analysed by researchers from the Jönköping and Linköping universities in Sweden.
Exercise is believed to increase the level of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is thought to be important for memory, the scientists said. Exercising is also known to increase levels of the feel-good hormone, which works as a neurotransmitter, helping signals flit quickly around the brain.
Higher levels of dopamine, the researchers said, “may enhance attention and memory”.