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Cognitive decline and associated memory loss are common features of aging, affecting approximately 16 million people living in the United States. A recent study found that high-intensity interval training improves memory in older adults.
The study involved 64 sedentary older adults between the ages of 60 and 88 years who were randomized to participate in 12 weeks of high-intensity interval training, moderate continuous training, or stretching (which served as the control group). Each of the participants' memory and executive functions were assessed before the training began.
The participants in the high-intensity group performed four intervals of high-intensity exercise on a treadmill for four minutes, followed by a period of recovery. The participants in the moderate continuous group performed a single set of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for approximately 50 minutes.
At the end of the study period, participants who engaged in high-intensity exercise performed better on memory tests than those who engaged in moderate continuous training or stretching only. The participants who saw the greatest fitness gains also saw the greatest memory improvements. Both high-intensity interval and moderate continuous exercise improved executive function in the participants.
These findings suggest that aerobic exercise, especially if it includes high-intensity interval training, has the potential to enhance memory in older adults.
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