20 Minutes of Lifting Can Improve Your Memory

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The time has come for us all to ask ourselves an important question: Bro, do you even lift? Because the benefits from just one short bout of resistance training aren’t just physical; new research suggests that the exercise provides a mental boost, too.

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology found that people who did a simple resistance exercise for just 20 minutes demonstrated stronger memory abilities than people who didn’t exercise. Here’s how they did it, according to the university’s press release:

The study began with everyone looking at a series of 90 photos on a computer screen. … Everyone then sat at a leg extension resistance exercise machine. Half of them extended and contracted each leg at their personal maximum effort 50 times. The control group simply sat in the chair and allowed the machine and the experimenter to move their legs. Throughout the process, each participant’s blood pressure and heart rate were monitored. Every person also contributed saliva samples so the team could detect levels of neurotransmitter markers linked to stress.

The participants returned to the lab 48 hours later and saw a series of 180 pictures — the 90 originals were mixed in with 90 new photos.

The people who didn’t exercise — the control group — recalled about 50 percent of the photos, and the people who’d exercised remembered 60 percent. The finding ties in with previous research that links brief (as in, not chronic or long-term) bouts of stress to memory improvement, likely because a stressful moment perks up the brain and bids us to pay attention. Or, more specifically, lead author Lisa Weinberg explained in the press release that the stress from the exercise “causes the release of certain hormones, and those can impact your brain activity.”

More evidence that it’s about time to rethink that whole “dumb jock” stereotype.