Even two minutes of exercise per day could be enough to improve your brain health and memory, a study has found.
Researchers looking at past studies saw that any amount of exercise, even if it was only a short walk, was good for the brains of people between the ages of 18 and 35.
The NHS recommends that all adults should do at least two hours of moderate activity per week but science suggests a lot less than that could still be worthwhile.
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Exercise was found to be good for the brain because it made nerve cells more active and it increased dopamine levels, helping to sharpen people’s 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 added that intense exercise brought long-term improvement.
As well as boosting brain health, exercise at any level is proven to bring a wealth of health benefits including strengthened heart and lungs, and a lowered risk of long-term illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
The Swedish researchers who did the study suggested their findings, which were specific to young people, could help them to learn better in studies or at work. EXERCISE ‘CAN MAKE YOUR BRAIN YOUNGER’
Going for a daily walk or bike ride can shave 10 years off your ‘brain age’, according to a study published in January 2019.
Researchers found that regular aerobic exercise – known more commonly as cardio – boosted essential gray matter in all adults, even those as young as 20 years old.
Even climbing the stairs improve the thinking skills of the students they examined, scientists said.
The positive effect of physical activity increased with age: people aged 40 had the brainpower to match someone 10 years younger, while 60-year-olds seemed 20 years younger, said scientists at Columbia University in New York.
The study of 132 people, published in the journal Neurology, found exercise specifically improved the health of nerves in areas that control executive function.
These relate to a person’s ability to regulate their own behavior, pay attention, organize and achieve goals.
Professor Yaakov Stern said: ‘We found all participants who exercised not only showed improvements in executive function but also increased the thickness in an area of the outer layer of their brain.’
The scientific review looked at people aged between 18 to 35 who exercised by walking, running or cycling at moderate to high intensity.
After exercising they then took tests to analyse their brain power, such as remembering a list of 15 words.
The participants, who exercised in bursts of two minutes, or 15 minutes, half an hour or an hour, all improved on tests and showed better concentration and problem-solving skills.
Findings were pooled together from 13 other studies that were then analysed by researchers from the Jonkoping and Linkoping universities in Sweden.
The authors wrote: ‘This systematic review strongly suggests that aerobic, physical exercise followed by a brief recovery… improves attention, concentration, and learning and memory functions in young adults.
‘The results of this review may have important education‐related implications.
‘Identifying optimal exercise strategies may help students to enhance their learning and memory.’
Exercise is believed to increase levels of a protein called ‘brain-derived neurotrophic factor’ which is thought to be important for memory, the scientists said.
They also suggested that brainpower improvements might come from a ‘sustained’ boost to nerve connectivity in the organ.
And exercising is also known to increase levels of the the feel-good hormone, which works as a neurotransmitter, helping signals to flit quickly around the brain.Higher levels of dopamine, the researchers said, ‘may enhance attention and memory’.But not everyone is a natural athlete or has hours to work out.The review wanted to see if a single bout of exercise could have an effect, so looked at studies exploring this with young adults over ten years.The review, published in the journal Translational Sports Medicine, found any exercise from two minutes to an hour improved memory and thinking skills for up to two hours. HOW MUCH EXERCISE DO YOU NEED TO DO? To stay healthy, adults aged 19 to 64 should try to be active daily and should do: at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) Or: 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week and strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) Or: a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week – for example, 2 x 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) A good rule is that 1 minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as 2 minutes of moderate activity.One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do 30 minutes on 5 days every week.All adults should also break up long periods of sitting with light activity.Source: NHS Advertisement