Just This Many Minutes of Exercise Will Boost Your Brain, Study Says

The next time you're feeling foggy, put down the coffee pot and go for a brisk walk instead.

There's nothing worse than settling in to get some work done and realizing you've got a major case of brain fog. In most cases, that's the point when a quick cup of coffee comes in. But according to a recent study, you might be able to replace the caffeine with just two minutes of exercise to give your brain the boost it needs.

By analyzing research from 13 studies conducted on young adults between the ages of 18 and 35, researchers were able to conclude that a micro-workout of just 120 seconds of exercise was able to improve learning and memory function, CNN reports. The same benefits carried over for any aerobic workout done for two minutes, including cycling, walking, or jogging.

Senior couple walking trough nature with mask on face.

The researchers concluded that "exercise at moderate to high intensity improved learning memory, planning and problem-solving, concentration-related cognitive functions, long-term memory, working memory, [and] verbal fluency." And the effects of the brief sweat sessions lasted for awhile, boosting subjects for up to two hours after exercising.

This is not the first research to draw a link between exercise and increased brain performance. A 2014 study conducted by the University of British Columbia found that aerobic exercise appears to increase the size of the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning.

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"When the neurons in [the hippocampus] rev up, research shows that our cognitive function improves," Justin Rhodes, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, wrote in a response piece for Scientific American. "Other recent work indicates that aerobic exercise can actually reverse hippocampal shrinkage, which occurs naturally with age, and consequently boost memory in older adults."

And exercise can help with other issues that could be affecting your brain health. Working out can also boost your mood, promote better sleep, and reduce stress and anxiety, which can ultimately create cognitive impairment, Harvard Health Publishing reported.

Now, getting those steps in can just be another way to flex your mental muscles. And for more ways to improve your health, check out 50 Important Habits Linked to a Longer Life.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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