A short burst of moderate exercise enhances the consolidation of memories in both healthy older adults and those with mild cognitive impairment, scientists with UC Irvine's Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory have discovered.
Most research has focused on the benefits of a long-term exercise program on overall health and cognitive function with age. But the UCI work is the first to examine the immediate effects of a brief bout of exercise on memory.
In their study, UCI postdoctoral scholar Sabrina Segal and neurobiologists Carl Cotman and Lawrence Cahill had people 50 to 85 years old with and without memory deficits view pleasant images - such as photos of nature and animals - and then exercise on a stationary bicycle for six minutes at 70 percent of their maximum capacity immediately afterward.
One hour later, the participants were given a surprise recall test on the previously viewed images. Results showed a striking enhancement of memory by exercise in both the healthy and cognitively impaired adults, compared with subjects who did not ride the bike.
"We found that a single, short instance of moderately intense exercise particularly improved memory in individuals with memory deficits," Segal said. "Because of its implications and the need to better understand the mechanism by which exercise may enhance memory, we're following up this study with an investigation of potential underlying biological factors."