Memory

Feeling forgetful? Time to hit the gym

Jan. 7, 2013 at 2:30 PM ET

By Madeline Haller, Men's Health

Tired of forgetting where you placed your car keys? Incorporating a short burst of exercise into your daily routine may help boost your memory, says a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Researchers had 54 adults--some with memory deficits, some without--view a series of images. Afterwards, half of the participants were asked to ride on a stationary bike for 6 minutes, while the others remained sedentary. When the subjects were asked to recite how many images they could recall an hour later, those who rode the bike showed a "striking enhancement of memory," Sabrina Segal, lead study author and post-doctoral researcher at the UC Irvine's Center for the Neurobiology of Learning Memory, tells MensHealth.com. "In the past, there has been research that's linked exercise to better cognitive performance," says Segal. "But what shocked us the most was that we saw a significant memory-enhancing effect in both [strong and weak memory] groups." (For more memory-boosting tips, try these 27 Ways to Power Up Your Brain.)

How could a trip to the gym be linked to better brain power? Researchers credit the exercise-induced release of norepinephrine, a chemical in the brain that plays a role in memory.

The researchers took three saliva samples from the participants: once at the beginning, another after the participants viewed the images, and one more immediately after the exercise or rest period. And levels of salivary alpha amylase, a biomarker that reflects norepinephrine activity in the brain, significantly spiked in those who rode the bike, Segal says.

And even though Segal targeted 50- to 85-year-olds in the study, she believes exercise has even better cognitive benefits in younger men. Pressed for time, but still want to break a sweat to boost your brainpower? Try The NEW Spartacus Workout on DVD!

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