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Get your memory in tip-top shape with a little aerobic exercise

The benefits of regular aerobic exercise on the body are well known, but exercise can also benefit our memory, a new study has found.

Researchers at Michigan State University tested the long-term memory of 75 healthy undergraduate students during two separate sessions. Long-term memory is anything recalled from more than about 30 seconds ago. Those who were less fit had a harder time retaining information.

The Memory Test

Participants studied related word pairs such as “camp” and “trail.” The next day, they were tested on the word pairs to see how much information they had retained.

The study participants’ aerobic fitness was gauged by oxygen consumption derived from a treadmill test and factored with the participants’ weight, body fat percentage, age and sex.

Although the study, which was published in the Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience Journal, didn’t examine exactly how exercise affects memory, it appears that aerobic activity can yield changes in the brain’s neural structures that support this function.

The Benefits of Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise, often referred to as “cardio,” stimulates and strengthens the heart and lungs, improving the body’s utilization of oxygen. Examples include jogging, swimming, rowing and cycling.

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend people aged 18 to 64 get a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic activity every week in bouts lasting at least 10 minutes. Doing so will benefit the body and the brain, and that’s worth remembering.