Even 10 minutes of aerobic activity can result in a measurable increase in one’s cognitive ability, at least temporarily, according to researchers from Western University in London, Canada.
“Some people can’t commit to a long-term exercise regime because of time or physical capacity,” says Kinesiology Professor Matthew Heath, who a supervisor in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience who conducted the study with master’s student Ashna Samani.
“This shows that people can cycle or walk briskly for a short duration, even once, and find immediate benefits,” he adds, in a media release from University of Western Ontario.
During the study, published in Neuropsychologia, participants either sat and read a magazine or did 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise on a stationary bicycle. Following the session, the researchers used eye-tracking equipment to examine the participants’ reaction times to a cognitively demanding eye movement task. The task was designed to challenge areas of the brain responsible for executive function such as decision-making and inhibition, the release explains.
“Those who had exercised showed immediate improvement. Their responses were more accurate and their reaction times were up to 50 milliseconds shorter than their pre-exercise values. That may seem minuscule but it represented a 14 percent gain in cognitive performance in some instances,” says Heath, who is also an associate member of Western’s Brain and Mind institute. He is conducting a study now to determine how long the benefits may last following exercise.
The work has significance for older people in early stages of dementia who may be less mobile, he states in the release, and for anyone else looking to gain quick a mental edge in their work.
“I always tell my students before they write a test or an exam or go into an interview—or do anything that is cognitively demanding—they should get some exercise first,” Heath adds. “Our study shows the brain’s networks like it. They perform better.”
[Source(s): University of Western Ontario, EurekAlert]