Want to preserve all those precious memories, including your first kiss and how you felt the first time you got behind the wheel of a car? If you do, start moving: New research shows that when sedentary older adults started to exercise, they showed improvements in episodic memory, or the ability to vividly recall meaningful moments and events.
These benefits were most pronounced among folks who weren’t experiencing any memory loss yet, but everyone saw some benefit when they exercised consistently several times a week.
Episodic memory is the first to show changes in people living with Alzheimer’s disease, says Dr. Neelum Aggarwal, a neurologist at Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago, who was not involved in the new study.
Making exercise a priority
“As episodic memory is often tested in the physician office and is a complaint that is often cited by patients … having a treatment plan that includes exercise is a positive and empowering way for patients to take care of their physical and brain health,” she notes.
“Walking is the most underrated form of aerobic exercise, yet for many persons, is accessible, free to do and has multiple benefits beyond physical movement, namely reducing stress and enhancing well-being — all of which are important for brain health,” Aggarwal adds.
And you don’t have to exercise every day, the study authors note.
“Exercising for three times a week was enough to see a benefit, and it looks like it takes about four months to reap these benefits in episodic memory,” says lead study author Sarah Aghjayan. She is a clinical and biological health psychology PhD student in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh.
And this makes sense, according to Aghjayan.