Doing This for Just 10 Minutes Daily Can Boost Your Memory, Study Says

It's easy to do, and researchers say the results are significant and immediate.

As we age, having a robust memory is crucial to our health, well-being, and independence. And while memory loss is not considered a normal part of aging, it's exceedingly common in middle age and beyond. In fact, according to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in nine middle aged individuals report experiencing cognitive decline or memory loss. Over half the people who reported it said they had difficulty completing everyday tasks such as cooking, cleaning, or taking medications. Luckily, there's a simple way to boost your memory to offset the likelihood of a problem—and it only takes 10 minutes a day to do. Read on to find out how to improve your memory starting today.

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Getting just 10 minutes of daily exercise can boost your memory.

Curvy multiethnic young women jogging together on city bridge

A large body of research has linked physical exercise with enhanced memory. Now, a 2018 study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that getting as little as 10 minutes of exercise per day can give you a cognitive boost.

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and Japan's University of Tsukuba collaborated on the study to assess the effects of exercise on the brain and memory. They used functional MRIs to measure those benefits in 36 healthy people, and determined that exercising for as little as 10 minutes can have a positive effect on the brain.

"We find that this brief intervention rapidly enhanced highly detailed memory processing and resulted in elevated activity in the hippocampus and the surrounding regions," the study authors wrote. After 10 minutes of exercise, they also noted increased communication "between the hippocampus and cortical regions previously known to support detailed memory processing."

This insight could have major implications for aging populations. "The hippocampus is critical for the creation of new memories; it's one of the first regions of the brain to deteriorate as we get older—and much more severely in Alzheimer's disease," Michael Yassa, the study's co-author and UCI professor, said via Science Daily. "Improving the function of the hippocampus holds much promise for improving memory in everyday settings."

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Even mild or light exercise is beneficial.

A young couple exercising together on yoga mats in their living room.

The research team added that even in short bouts, "stress-free, mild exercise" such as walking, yoga, or tai chi could have significant effects on memory. This finding suggests that for most individuals, improvements are within reach with only minor changes to their daily habits.

"It's encouraging to see more people keeping track of their exercise habits—by monitoring the number of steps they're taking, for example," said Yassa. "Even short walking breaks throughout the day may have considerable effects on improving memory and cognition," he added.

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Light exercise may be better for cognition than high-intensity workouts.

Group fitness tai chi

Many people may assume that if mild exercise is good, intense exercise is great. However, the study found that high intensity exercise seemed to undermine some of the cognitive benefits they observed. "Intriguingly, these effects were suppressed with intense exercise," the study states.

Other research corroborates the notion that light exercise may be better for the brain than high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and other forms of high-intensity exercise. In 2016, researchers performed a study on rodents comparing the cognitive effects of various intensities of exercise. They assigned different exercise routines to different groups of animals, then microscopically examined the brain tissue of each at the end of the exercise period.

Rodents who performed a moderate regimen of jogging on wheels had the highest levels of neurogenesis, the team found. This means they formed the most new neurons in the brain compared with sedentary animals and those which had completed higher intensity regimens. While sedentary animals had developed the least new neurons in the hippocampal region, those who had completed HIIT training were not far behind.

Exercise offers you instant benefits.

A senior couple smiling and dancing with each other

The researchers behind the original 2018 study noted one more significant reason to get up off the couch more often: The cognitive benefits of just 10 minutes of exercise are instant. Yassa notes that the researchers observed an immediately positive impact among its subjects. The various "memory-focused" regions of the brain increased their communication in real time.

"We don't discount the possibility that new cells are being born, but that's a process that takes a bit longer to unfold," said Yassa. "What we observed is that these 10-minute periods of exercise showed results immediately afterward," he added.

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Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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