Whilst exercise can improve mental and cognitive health, not all forms and intensity with which exercise is carried out affects the brain in the same manner. The effects of exercise are much more subtle, as specific intensities of exercise over a long period of time are associated with different aspects of memory and mental health, according to a new study at Dartmouth.
The findings are published in Scientific Reports.
“Memory and mental health are key to almost every action performed in our everyday lives’” stated the lead author of the study. The study is trying to create a foundation to understand how different intensities of physical exercise affect different dimension of cognitive and mental health.
For the study, 113 Fitbit users were asked to perform a series of memory tests, were asked to answer some questions about their mental health, and share their fitness data of previous year.
The researchers expected more active individuals to have better memory performance and mental health, but the results suggested fine distinction. People who carried out low intensity exercise performed better at some memory jobs, while those who exercised at high intensities performed better on other memory jobs. Individuals who exercised intensely reported higher stress levels, in comparison to individuals who exercise regularly at lower intensity and show lower rates of anxiety and depression.
In fact, previous research has mostly focused on the effects of exercise on memory over a relatively short period of time of several days or weeks. On the other hand, study undertaken by Dartmouth researchers is inclined to examine the effects of exercise over a much longer time period. The forms of exercise included were average heart rates, daily step counts, time spent exercising in different ‘heart rate zones’ as marked on Fitbit.