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Elderly women doing physical exercise [Photo/Nkateko-amin]

A single session of exercise improves cognitive functions and working memory in some elderly people, a new study has revealed.

The study discovered that conducted at the University of Iowa discovered that participants, experienced the same cognitive benefits and improved memory from a single exercise session as they did from longer, regular exercise.

The experiments used included: physical activity, brain scans, and working memory tests. In the research, the scientists wanted to tease out how a single session of exercise may affect older individuals.

The study attracted 34 participants aged 60 to 80 years who were healthy but not regularly active.

Each participant rode a stationary bike on two separate occasions with light and then more strenuous resistance when pedaling for 20 minutes. Before and after each exercise session, each participant underwent a brain scan and completed a memory test.

The Results

The results after the exercise showed bursts of activity in regions known to be involved in the collection and sharing of memories in the brain scan.bursts of activity in regions known to be involved in the collection and sharing of memories.

After a single exercise session, the researchers found in some individuals increased connectivity between the brain’s memory center and two regions involved in cognition and memory. The same participants also performed better on memory tests. Other individuals showed little to no gain.

Another Exercise

The participants also engaged in regular exercise, pedaling on a stationary bike for 50 minutes three times a week for three months. One group engaged in moderate-intensity pedaling, while another group had a mostly lighter workout in which the bike pedals moved for them.

Most participants in the moderate and lighter-intensity groups showed mental benefits, this is after examining the brain scans and working memory tests given at the beginning and at the end of the three-month exercise period. But the brain gains were no greater than the improvements from when they had exercised a single time.

More Research

Further, the research found that the boost in cognition and memory from a single exercise session lasted only a short while for those who showed gains.

“The hope is that a lot of people will then keep it up because those benefits to the brain are temporary. Understanding exactly how long the benefits last after a single session, and why some benefit more than others, are exciting directions for future research,” write the authors of the study.

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