Though many of the benefits of intense exercise have long been known, a new study has found one more. A new study by McMaster University posted in the “Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience” suggests that short bouts of intense exercise can improve high-interference memory. This new finding may have great benefits for those suffering with dementia, and other cognitive function issues.

In the study each of the 95 young adult were placed in one of three groups exercise only group, exercise and cognitive training group, and the control group which neither exercised or mentally trained. The test took place over a 6 week period, each day the two exercise groups would participate in brief intense periods of intense exercise.

Both the exercise, and exercise/cognitive training group showed improvements in their high-interference memory performance, and no difference was noted in the control group. Though there was no noticeable improvement in overall memory performance, high-interference memory, which is associated with the hippocampus was noticed.

Some participants were found to have better results than others. These “high responders” also showed an increased benefit in the exercise/cognitive training group, whereas most participants in both exercise groups showed similar results. The high responders were found to have increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is a protein that supports performance, growth and survival of brain cells.

“Improvements in this type of memory from exercise might help to explain the previously established link between aerobic exercise and better academic performance,” says Jennifer Heisz, lead author of the study.

Studies on older participants have been planned to discover if the same benefits can be found in elderly participants.

“One hypothesis is that we will see greater benefits for older adults given that this type of memory declines with age,” says Heisz. “However, the availability of neurotrophic factors also declines with age and this may mean that we do not get the synergistic effects.”


Heisz, J. J., Clark, I. B., Bonin, K., Paolucci, E. M., Michalski, B., Becker, S., & Fahnestock, M. (2017). The Effects of Physical Exercise and Cognitive Training on Memory and Neurotrophic Factors. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 29(11), 1895-1907. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01164

Photo Credit

Photo by William Stitt on Unsplash


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