It’s no secret that exercise is good for us. Studies have shown that exercise can improve our memory by strengthening the connections between neurons, called synapses. But there’s been a recent study in Brigham Young University, that looks at the affects of exercise like never before.
Stress and Its Impact on Memory
Previous studies have shown that stress can affect our ability to learn and remember information. And yet, when researchers study exercise and its impact on our minds and synapses, they don’t consider the element of stress. Stress is a common element in all of our lives.
A New Study Looking at Stress and Memory
Researchers at Brigham Young University split healthy male mice into groups. One group continued their normal rodent life and the other group ran on wheels in their cages (running up to three miles a day).
After a month, the wheel and non-wheel running rodents were split into four groups. Some groups faced three days of stressful experiences—akin to replicating the stress we face at work and in life. The groups were:
- Control group of sedentary mice (no exercise, no stress)
- Sedentary mice (no exercise, stress)
- Wheel-running mice (exercise, no stress)
- Wheel-running mice (exercise, stress)
When the researchers looked at the synapses after three days of stressful experiences, here what they found:
- Control group – The second weakest synapses in the study
- Sedentary mice (no exercise, stress) – The weakest synapses in the study
- Wheel-running mice (exercise, no stress) – The strongest synapses in the study
- Wheel-running mice (exercise, stress) – The second strongest synapses in the study
This study showed that even in the face of synapse-weakening stress, exercise can improve an animal’s memory. Of course, more research needs to be done on different types of exercises as well as the fact that mice are not humans. But the results of this study seem to reinforce the importance of physical activity, especially considering our stressful lives.
Read more about the study in The New York Times.
Dr. Sonja Stilp delivers innovative, individualized physical medicine and rehabilitation with a focus on spine and sports medicine at RISE. If you want to learn about ways exercise can improve your performance (and memory), schedule an appointment to meet with her.