Researches have shown that physical exercise increases oxygen flow into the brain, and an increase oxygen in brain is always accompanied with an increase in cognitive sharpness. However, it has never been known how much exercise is needed to achieve such cognitive benefit.
A research at the University of Adelaide, Australia, has found that just one session of 30 minutes vigorous exercise is enough to spark positive changes in the brain that are likely to make it “more plastic,” and apparently could lead to improvement of memory and coordination of motor skills.
The researchers recruited a small group of healthy people aged in their late 20s to early 30s. They were asked to ride exercise bikes for a period of 30 minutes and immediately after the exercise, the researchers monitored for changes in the brain and again 15 minutes later.
“We saw positive changes in the brain straight away, and these improvements were sustained 15 minutes after the exercise had ended,” says lead researcher of the study, Michael Ridding.
“Plasticity in the brain is important for learning, memory and motor skill coordination. The more ‘plastic’ the brain becomes, the more it is able to reorganize itself, modifying the number and strength of connections between nerve cells and different brain areas,” he added.
Evidence has shown that regular physical activity can have positive effects on brain function and plasticity, but we never had a clean-cut idea whether a stand-alone session of exercise would also have similar positive effects. But now, we do.
“This exercise-related change in the brain may, in part, explain why physical activity has a positive effect on memory and higher-level functions.”
Engaging in aerobic exercise positively influence brain function at cellular and molecular levels.
Exercise also increases neurons’ creation; neuron growth in hippocampus gives you space for new things to learn by erasing old memories and this makes a person cognitively active. It also increases resistance to damage and stress. On another research, curiosity also enhances brain function. Of course curiosity can be considered as an exercise for brain.
“Although this was a small sample group, it helps us to better understand the overall picture of how exercise influences the brain,” said Riddle. “We know that plasticity is also important for recovery from brain damage, so this opens up potential therapeutic avenues for patients.”