Exciting new research from New Zealand suggests that in just six minutes you can improve your memory and delay the onset of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Best of all, this amazing memory-boosting activity is easy to do and free to everyone. I’m talking about exercise. But not just any exercise will fit the bill, at least according to a new study published in The Journal of Physiology.
The scientists in charge of the research found that the best exercise for boosting your memory is short but intense bursts of physical activity. In the study these short bursts had an amazing impact on the brain, increasing the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF).1
We’ve talked about BDNF before. Scientists call it “Miracle-Gro for the brain” because it helps neurons grow while keeping them strong. Higher levels of BDNF are associated with better overall cognition and memory function.
Researchers have known since the early 2000s that aerobic exercise boosts BDNF levels in both humans and mice.2 Other research has shown that intermittent fasting boosts BDNF and increases hippocampal neurogenesis in the mammalian brain.
However, this is one of the first human studies to pinpoint a physical activity “prescription” or dose that increases BDNF production.
Naturally Harnessing The Protective Power Of BDNF
Armed with the results of past study findings on both exercise and fasting, lead author Travis D. Gibbons, of the University of Otago, New Zealand, and his team took a closer look.
“BDNF has shown great promise in animal models, but pharmaceutical interventions have thus far failed to safely harness the protective power of BDNF in humans,” Prof. Gibbons said in a news release.3
“We saw the need to explore non-pharmacological approaches that can preserve the brain’s capacity, which humans can use to naturally increase BDNF to help with healthy aging.”
The new research teases apart the influence of fasting and exercise on BDNF production.
Six Minutes Of High-Intensity Exercise Sharpens Memory
The researchers had 12 physically active men and women between the ages of 18 and 56 go through a cycle of fasting, exercising at low intensity and at high intensity. For instance, they fasted for 20 hours, exercised at low intensity for 90 minutes, and exercised at high intensity for six minutes. Then they combined fasting and exercise together.
After each workout and/or fasting session, the researchers compared circulating BDNF levels. And what did they discover?
High-intensity exercise was the best BDNF-booster of them all!
Mr. Gibbons and his team found that short bursts of intense exercise are the most efficient way to increase BDNF compared to longer sessions of more moderate exercise.
They wrote: “Six minutes of high-intensity cycling intervals increased every metric of circulating BDNF by four to five times more than prolonged low-intensity cycling.”
However, the reason is still unclear. Mr. Gibbons and his team plan to delve deeper into the effects of calorie restriction and exercise on BDNF and brain health.
In addition to exercise, you can—and should— take a nutritional approach to boosting BDNF. For example, studies have shown that coffee fruit, which actually looks nothing like a coffee bean but instead resembles a red berry, can support your body’s production of BDNF.
Our sister company, Green Valley Natural Solutions, pioneered a formula with a patented form of Whole Coffee Fruit Extract called Neurofactor™, which has been shown to support your BDNF levels which can provide critical support to memory, attention, focus and brain health. It’s called Brain Vitality Plus, and you can read more about it here.
I also want to say that I’m not a fan of the long fasts used in the study’s research. However, I am a fan of intermittent fasting (short, regular fasts), and physical activity of all types for brain health. Using a stationary bike or treadmill, you can set your monitor for short, intense bouts followed by rest. It’s a great way to spice up a tedious indoor workout.
Or you could try quickening up the pace of your walk with quicker intervals. Alternatively, try a High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) class offered at your local gym. Your brain loves exercise of all kinds … so get moving!