We've known for some time that regular aerobic exercise can give memory a boost, but now a new study from Georgia Tech has shown that 20 minutes of simple resistance exercise can also do the trick. Researchers recruited healthy young adults to either perform exercises or serve as controls. They first showed a series of 90 photos on a screen to all the participants. Then, everyone sat at a leg extension machine. Half the participants performed the leg exercises - extending and contracting each leg 50 times at their personal maximum effort. Those in the control group just sat at the machines while one of the researchers moved their legs passively. Two days later, all the participants returned to the lab and were shown 180 photos, half of which were those they had seen at the first session. Memory tests indicated that the participants who actively performed the exercises remembered about 60 percent of the photos, while those in the control group remembered only 50 percent. The research team now intends to look further into how resistance exercise affects memory in various populations, including older people with memory impairment.
My take? This study contributes to accumulating scientific evidence suggesting that physical activity helps keep your mind sharp and your memory from slipping. A related study at the University of Pittsburgh found that brain volume increased in areas associated with memory in seniors who took 40-minute walks three days a week for one year. And a study in mice at Columbia University found that exercise triggered blood flow and cell growth in brain areas linked to age-related memory decline. It's interesting to learn from the Georgia Tech study that resistance exercise can also affect memory for the better.