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Exercise Frequency Can Affect Our Memory As We Age, New Research Finds

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February 20, 2022
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As we get older, we all want to retain our memories. And according to new research published in the Nature journal Communications Medicine, exercise can help1. But how much? And what kind of exercise? Here's what the researchers found.

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Reviewing the literature on exercise, aging, and memory.

For this study, a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh wanted to look at exercise as it relates to healthy aging and, namely, memory retention. To do so, they gathered data from 36 different studies, creating a huge pool of statistics to find existing links and connections that had previously gone unnoticed.

They were able to directly compare the findings of these studies, amassing data from nearly 3,000 participants, Ph.D. student and lead author of the study Sarah Aghjayan notes in a news release.

What they found.

Based on their findings, the team concluded that not only does regular exercise help support episodic memory over time, but aerobic exercise seems to be best—and they found the greatest benefits in those 55 and up.

Episodic memories are memories of specific experiences that include things like time and location, such as driving a car for the first time, walking the stage at graduation, or your most recent birthday. And according to the study authors, episodic memory is one of the earliest memory systems to decline as we get older.

"From our study, it seems like exercising about three times a week for at least four months is how much you need to reap the benefits in episodic memory," Aghjayan explains, adding, "We found that there were greater improvements in memory among those who are age 55 to 68 years compared to those who are 69 to 85 years old—so intervening earlier is better."

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The takeaway.

The bottom line is, there are already so many good fundamental reasons for exercising on a regular basis, from keeping your body strong to fueling those feel-good hormones. But if you needed one more reason to get moving, keeping your memory sharp as you age is one of them. Just keep in mind: Moving at least three times a week may be the ticket, according to this research!