What type of exercise improves memory the most?
Exercise, in general, is beneficial for the brain, but is one type of exercise more beneficial for
memory? That’s what the following research investigated.
Sixty-four sedentary older adults either did high-intensity interval training, moderate continuous
training or stretching as a control (Kovacevic A, et.al., 2019).
The researchers found that high-intensity interval training resulted in the greatest
memory performance in inactive older adults compared to moderate continuous training
They also found that improvement in fitness correlated with improvement in memory
performance since moderate exercise also helped.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is a protein plays an important role in the
survival and growth of the nervous system. This means that BDNF is important for keeping the
This research tested the effectiveness of two high-intensity exercise protocols, both known to
improve cardiovascular health, to determine whether they have similar efficacy in affecting
BDNF levels ( Saucedo Marquez CM , et.al., 2015).
Participants performed a continuous exercise protocol at 70% of maximal work rate and a
high-intensity interval training protocol at 90% of maximal work rate for periods of 1 minute
alternating with 1 min of rest (both protocols lasted 20 min).
Both protocols increased BDNF levels, but the high-intensity interval training improved
BDNF levels the most.
Kovacevic A, Fenesi B, Paolucci E, Heisz JJ. The effects of aerobic exercise intensity on
memory in older adults. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2019 Oct 30.
Saucedo Marquez CM, Vanaudenaerde B, Troosters T, Wenderoth N. High-intensity interval
training evokes larger serum BDNF levels compared with intense continuous exercise. J Appl
Physiol (1985). 2015 Dec 15;119(12):1363-73