10 minutes of physical activity a day helps the brain, study says

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 11:43 AM EST
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(CNN) - It is no secret that moving is good for the body, and a new study finds more evidence that it is also good for the mind.

”They took 4,500 individuals in the UK. They strapped an activity monitor onto their thigh and looked at what did they do during the day. How much did they sleep? When were they active? When were they sedentary?” said Dr. Tara Narula, a cardiologist at Northwell Health.

After activity, researchers gave the individuals a cognitive test and found that the people who did just less than 10 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day saw improvements to short-term memory and executive function, which helps with things like planning and organization.

”The converse was also true. If you downshifted from moderate or vigorous activity towards more sleep, sedentary behavior or light activity by about 7-10 minutes, you lost about 1-2% of your cognitive ability,” Narula said.

While the cognitive improvement was modest, researchers found the benefits grew with more time spent doing more energetic workouts.

Moderate physical activity is typically defined as brisk walking, bicycling or running up and down stairs. Vigorous activity like running, swimming and biking up a hill will boost your heart rate and breathing.

”They speculate that it could be increasing your cerebral profusion or blood flow to your brain,” Narula said.

Additional research is needed, but researchers said even modest changes can make a big difference in brain health.

While the study had some limitations, including a lack of information on the health of those studied, one health expert said it is believed the findings illustrate that consistent movement patterns over time is as important, if not more important, than one single session of exercise.