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Remember This: Exercise Boosts Your Brainpower

Middle-Aged Adults Who Cycle or Stretch Improve Memory
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Exercise and Memory: Results continued...

But both the cycling and the stretching groups did better on the memory test of learning a list of items than the inactive group.

The increase in this test score was linked with an increase in fitness.

The cycling group improved more than the others in the recognition test. It tests long-term retention of learned material.

One surprise finding: The stretching group actually improved more in a test of attention than did the cycling group. In a paper and pencil test, they had to find and mark certain letters quickly.

Hotting didn't find any noticeable differences in performance for any other thinking skills.

The improvements in memory are useful, she tells WebMD. "In everyday life, learning a list of items is relevant when learning vocabulary, a shopping list, or remembering to-do lists."

The recognition test reflects an ability to remember learned items for more than a few minutes, she says. "That is relevant for many things you want to remember in everyday life."

Exercise and Memory: Improved Blood Flow

The study findings echo previous research, says Scott Small, MD, the Herbert Irving professor of neurology at Columbia University. He reviewed the findings but was not involved in the German study.

Other studies have also found that an increase in fitness is linked with selective improvements in memory, he tells WebMD.

In his own research, Small has found that inactive people who become physically active can increase blood flow to the brain. They then score better on memory tests.

One strength of the new study, he tells WebMD, is the length of the training. Another is the focus on middle-aged men and women. He says they often worry about memory problems.

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