Health Blog

A single, brief session of resistance exercise done immediately after a visual learning task enhances episodic memory by about 10%, new research shows.

Lisa Weinberg, a psychology graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in Atlanta, and colleagues found that a resistance workout lasting as little as 20 minutes improved recall of a series of photos shown to participants 48 hours earlier.

"Our study indicates that people don't have to dedicate large amounts of time to give their brain a boost," Weinberg said in a statement.

"We're not trying to replace long-term [aerobic] interventions ― they are great and do all sorts of amazing things for you," coinvestigator Audrey Duarte, PhD, Georgia Institute of Technology, told Medscape Medical News.

"But what hasn't been shown before is that the benefit we are seeing occurs after doing a really easy task that anyone could do at home when injured or even after a hip replacement. Since we are studying aging in my lab, I find this particularly compelling because of its application to aging."

The study was published in the October issue of Acta Psychologica.

The study began with a total of 46 participants who looked at a series of 90 photos on a computer screen. Images were evenly split between positive images, such as children on a water slide; negative images, such as mutilated bodies; and neutral images, such as pictures of clocks.

Researchers from the University of California-Los Angeles Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging have published the first small study of a novel personalized comprehensive program to reverse memory loss. Their first 10 participants carried the diagnoses of Alzheimer disease, amnestic mild cognitive impairment, and subjective cognitive impairment. The intervention was a 36-point therapeutic program involving comprehensive changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins, and multiple additional steps that affect brain chemistry. Within 3-6 months of the program's start, nine of the first 10 participants displayed subjective or objective improvement in memory. Of six patients who had to discontinue working or were struggling with their jobs at study onset, all were able to return to work or continue working with improved performance. Improvements have been sustained for as long as 2.5 years from initial treatment. One of the 10 patients with late-stage Alzheimer disease did not improve.

A minimally supervised exercise program improved balance, mobility, fear of falling, and quality of life in a randomized controlled trial of patients with Parkinson's disease (PD).

The exercise program also led to a reduction in falls in patients with milder PD but not in those with more severe disease.

"These results are unique because they were achieved with an exercise program in which more than 87% of the prescribed exercises were undertaken independently by participants at home," Colleen Canning, PhD, associate professor, physiotherapy, University of Sydney in Australia, told Medscape Medical News.

"The low-cost, minimally-supervised exercise program tested is this study should be recommended as an intervention for improving mobility and reducing fall risk in people with mild PD," she added.

The study was published online December 31 in Neurology.