You know that thing where you go to the grocery store for one item and come home with 20 things that don’t include the one thing you originally went out for? Or when you make plans in the morning to meet someone for lunch and then smack yourself in the forehead when you see all their missed calls around 3 pm after enjoying sushi for one at your desk? Or how about the cold horror that rushes into your stomach when you check your calendar and realize you missed calling your best friend on their birthday?
We all forget things sometimes. Except that song you hate that’s always on the radio. That’s never leaving your brain, haha. But it turns out that regular exercise can possibly help you remember to grab your reusable grocery bags before you leave the house. Researchers have provided some preliminary proof that exercise could possibly be causing new connections in our brains that lead to more memory capabilities.
It’s been established that fitness and memory improvement go hand in hand. A 2013 study conducted by scientists at the University of British Columbia showed that regular physical activity improved verbal and spatial memory in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.
But this recent study, conducted on mice, monkeys, and humans and published in the journal Cell Metabolism, takes a closer look at how exercise can improve memory.
When our muscles work they produce (among many other things) a protein called cathepsin B. As muscles produce this protein, levels of it rise in our bloodstreams. The researchers were curious about the role this cathepsin B played in improving memory function, as it’s been associated with cell death and some diseases.
NPR reports, “Experiments showed that blood levels of cathepsin B rose in mice that spent a lot of time on their exercise wheels. What’s more, as levels of the protein rose, the mice did better on a memory test in which they had to swim to a platform hidden just beneath the surface of a small pool.”The NPR article continues, “The team also found evidence that, in mice, cathepsin B was causing the growth of new cells and connections in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is central to memory.”
This also proved to be true with monkeys and humans. In fact, the researchers discovered that the higher the cathepsin B levels were in the human test subjects, the better their memories were. And those high levels were all generated by regular exercise regimens.
Just another great reason to work out every day! If you’re someone who has recently started to exercise regularly, did you notice a bump up in your memory abilities? If so, I’d love to hear your story. Let me know in the comments!