A new study led by the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute has revealed that moderate exercise in the morning improves our cognitive performance throughout the rest of the day. For example, individuals who worked out on a treadmill in the morning were found to make better decisions during a subsequent day of sitting for eight hours.

The researchers also found that morning exercise combined with brief light-intensity walking sessions, which were meant to break up an 8-hour day of sitting, was associated with short-term memory benefits.

The experts noted that there were distinctive differences in the cognitive responses to morning exercise versus exercise combined with walking breaks. This suggests that different patterns of physical activity lead to the enhancement of distinguishable aspects of cognition.

The investigation was focused on more than 65 males and females between the ages of 55 and 80 years old. The researchers examined the effects of acute morning exercise on a treadmill with and without brief 3 minute walking breaks during an 8-hour day of prolonged sitting.

The study also assessed various aspects of cognition and concentration including psychomotor function, attention, visual learning, working memory, and executive function such as decision-making.

When the experts measured a protein which plays an important role in the survival and growth of information-transmitting neurons in the brain, they found that this protein was elevated for eight hours during both exercise conditions.

Study co-author and physical activity researcher Michael Wheeler said the findings highlight the need to avoid uninterrupted sitting in order to maintain optimal cognition across the day. He explained that moderate-intensity exercise such as a brisk walk should be encouraged for the daily maintenance of brain health.

“With an aging population which is looking to live healthier for longer, these studies are critical to people enjoying a productive and satisfying quality of life,” said Wheeler. “This study highlights how relatively simple changes to your daily routine could have a significant benefit to your cognitive health. It also reveals that one day we may be able to do specific types of exercise to enhance specific cognitive skills such as memory or learning.”

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