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Exercise Can Improve Memory in Older Adults

older exercise
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

It is often said that, as you age, the memory is the first thing to go. However, according to a new study, one fairly simple step can greatly improve older adults’ ability to remember.

Researchers form the University of California-Irvine ran a series of tests on 50 adults from age 50 to 85, some with still healthy memories and others who had reported memory deficits. The subjects were all shown 20 images of animals and nature scenes. Then half the group rode six minutes on an exercise bike, and the other half did not. An hour later the whole group was asked how many of the images they could recall.

“We saw significantly better recall in the exercise group than in the non-exercise group,” says lead study author Sabrina Segal. “This was particularly significant in cognitively impaired participants who almost doubled their recall improvement.”

The researchers posit that even a very brief session of exercise will raise norepinephrine levels, which may be what is leading to improved memory.

“What’s exciting to us about this is that not only did exercise increase the biomarker for this brain chemical, but we saw more of this chemical released and with that, better recall,” Segal explained. “This relationship has not been shown ever in context of exercise. We have not tapped into this system yet, and it is a very powerful way of enhancing our memories.”


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