Study shows exercise improves memory for seniors

  • By Melissa Healy Los Angeles Times
  • Monday, December 3, 2012 2:37pm
  • Life

Perhaps you’ve noticed you’re less likely to forget where you parked your car after a brisk tennis match than after a trip to the library.

In a new study of healthy seniors and those with emerging memory problems, even a single brief bout of vigorous exercise and the release of norepinephrine that comes with it can enhance memory of what came just before it.

Researchers at University of California-Irvine recruited 31 healthy older adults with an average age of 69, and 23 subjects who had been diagnosed with “amnestic” mild cognitive impairment.

All were shown a series of 20 emotionally positive images and half in each group were put on treadmills to exercise for six minutes. Subjects in the other half of each group were allowed to sit quietly.

Sixty minutes later, the subjects were given a surprise free-recall test.

Among those with normal memory function, a single bout of exercise increased recall of photos and details by 30 percent. Among subjects with amnestic mild cognitive impairment, those in the brief-exercise group remembered twice as much as the nonexercisers.

They released more norepinephrine in response to exercise, apparently compensating for their faulty memories.

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