It’s well established that exercise substantially changes the human brain, affecting both thinking and emotions. But a sophisticated, multifaceted new study suggests that the effects may be more nuanced than many scientists previously believed. Whether you gain all of the potential cognitive and mood benefits from exercise may depend on when and how often you work out, as well as on the genetic makeup of your brain.
For the experiment…recruited 54 adults, ages 18 to 36… The volunteers were healthy but generally sedentary; none exercised regularly…
The results were, in certain aspects, a surprise. As expected, many of the volunteers who’d been exercising for the past month significantly improved their scores on the memory and mood tests. But not all of them did. In general, those volunteers who had exercised for the past month and who worked out on the day of retesting performed the best on the memory exam. They also tended to report less anxiety than other volunteers.
Those who had exercised during the preceding month but not on the day of testing generally did better on the memory test than those who had been sedentary, but did not perform nearly as well as those who had worked out that morning.
Interestingly, while exercising before the test didn’t improve the memory scores of those who’d remained sedentary for the past month, it did increase their self-reported anxiety levels. They were more jittery than they had been on the first lab visit.
Perhaps most intriguing, though, was what the researchers discovered when they compared the volunteers’ BDNF gene variants and their scores on the memory test. They found that those with the variant that blunts BDNF production after exercise — a fairly common variation, existing in about 30 percent of people of European Caucasian heritage — did not improve their memories, even if they exercised regularly…
What all of this means for people who are hoping that exercise will improve their minds is unclear, Dr. Bucci says, but it does suggest that the interplay of physical activity and brainpower is more complex than we have perhaps yet acknowledged…
But the overall message of this study and of ongoing research in his lab, Dr. Bucci adds, is that exercise generally enhances the ability to remember. The people who did improve their memory test scores, he points out, were invariably those who’d exercised throughout the previous month and again the morning of the testing, suggesting a powerful cumulative effect from the exercise sessions..
RTFA for details of how the test was conducted, for information on BDNF production and genetics.
AFAIC, it’s worth posting this short article about testing for exercise and mental results. Push comes to shove, there are always a few well-paid pundits who fund their career serving as skeptic about anything positive and productive from eating healthier, living an active lifestyle – possibly and probably ignoring network television as an alternative to exercise. 🙂