Playing sports would promote memory. It is well known, sport has multiple health benefits. According to a study, doing exercise once a week would affect the way our brain accesses memories.
In 2013, the University of Maryland (USA) had already worked on sports and memory . After three months of study, scientists had discovered that 12 weeks of treadmill changed the way participants’ brains functioned.
Indeed, the areas involved in semantic memory (our knowledge of the world and our general culture) were less active during the tests. Conclusion: After three months of intensive sport, the brain needed fewer resources to access memories, so it had become more efficient.
Based on these results, Dr. Smith and his team wanted to see the effects of short-term physical exercise on memory. They recruited 26 healthy men and women between the ages of 55 and 85, without serious memory problems, and asked them to come to the lab twice. Once there, either the participants rested quietly or they cycled for 30 minutes. After that, they underwent a brain scan during which names were displayed on a computer screen above their head. Many of these names were famous while others were anonymous names spotted in the yellow pages.
“An analogy with what happens with the muscles”
Known names being an important part of semantic memory, researchers asked participants to press a button online when they recognized one and on another when they had no idea of the person to whom it was made reference. At the same time, scientists were examining their brain activity as a whole as well as areas involved in the functioning of semantic memory. As a result, instead of being calmer after the exercise, as was the case in the 2013 study, they were much more active among people who had just been active.
“It’s an analogy to what’s happening with the muscles,” says Dr. Smith. When you start exercising, your muscles hurt. But as you train, these same muscles respond more efficiently using less energy. In the same way, the peak of brain activity after a first bike session announces the remodeling of the tissue which, with continuous exercise, will subsequently strengthen the memory center.
A few months ago, researchers conducted a study on the link between sport and Alzheimer’s . They discovered that regular physical activity would prevent cognitive decline and thus the onset of illness. And this, thanks to a hormone called irisine , released in the body during exercise. And the authors of the study conclude: “All of these findings suggest that irisin could be harnessed to find a new therapy to prevent or treat dementia in humans.”