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20-Minute Intense Weight Lifting Session Can Enhance Memory: Study

10/03/2014 11:45 EDT | Updated 10/03/2014 11:59 EDT
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An intense, 20-minute workout may enhance long-term memory by as much as 10 per cent in healthy young adults, according to researchers behind a small new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

"Our study indicates that people don't have to dedicate large amounts of time to give their brain a boost," says Lisa Weinberg, the

Georgia Tech graduate student who led the project.

The study is not the first to associate exercise with memory enrichment, although their method is innovative because they asked participants to lift just once a full two days before they were tested.

Spring-boarding on past research on animals saying the post-learning period is when the arousal caused by exercise is most likely to benefit memory, they also asked them to study before lifting rather than after.

A group of 23 participants were asked to view but not memorize a series of 90 photographs that depicted a range of subjects in emotionally light, serious or neutral situations.

Half the group then performed a set of 50 leg extension resistance reps at their personal maximum, while the control group sat at the machines and went through the motions with no resistance.

Blood pressure and heart rate were monitored throughout the workout for everyone, including the control group.

Two days later, participants viewed 180 pictures of which 90 were new and the remaining 90 were the ones they had viewed on the first day.

The control group was able to recall 50 per cent of the original pictures, while the test group recalled 60 per cent.

Dr. Weinberg says that non-weight-based resistance exercises such as squats or knee-bends would likely produce the same results as the weight-based exercises did in her study.

The study was published in the journal Acta Psychologica.

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