Scientists from the University of Jyväskylä in Finland have discovered that performing aerobic activity such as running can help improve memory.

Aerobic exercise, otherwise known as ‘cardio’, requires the heart to pump oxygenated blood round the body and keep up the pace with all working muscles. Scientists found that in lab rats, regular aerobic activity such as jogging can increase the number of neurons in the brain, boosting learning capabilities and also improving memory.

 The lab rats were required to engage in a six-to-eight-week training period in order for the study to produce significant results. Scientists found that by the end of the study, the rats that ran voluntarily on a wheel throughout the time frame possessed two to three times more hippocampal neurons than their inactive counterparts.

Results showed resistance training to have little effect on the brain, as the study notes: “Only sustained aerobic exercise improved hippocampal neurogenesis [generation of neurons] in adult animals.

“It has been unclear whether high-intensity interval training, referring to alternating short bouts of very intense anaerobic exercise with recovery periods, or anaerobic resistance training has similar effects on hippocampal neurogenesis in adulthood,” the report adds.

 The hippocampus is a part of the brain that plays a major part in the overall learning process, since it determines how we perceive and memorise certain information.  Findings from this study could therefore mean that regular aerobic training can also improve cognitive ability in humans.

“It is possible that by promoting neurogenesis via sustained aerobic exercise, the neuron reserve of the hippocampus can be increased and thus also the preconditions for learning improved – also in humans,” the study concludes.

Additional reporting by RT.

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