According to new research, high intensity interval training improves metabolism in a brain structure involved in memory formation and retention. Following a 6-month physical activity intervention for adolescents, researchers discovered increased metabolism in the left hippocampus.
"The primary focus of my research is the design, evaluation, and dissemination of school-based physical activity interventions," said David Lubans, the study's corresponding author and a professor at the University of Newcastle.
"My secondary area of interest is researching the effects and mechanisms of physical activity on the mental health and cognition of young people." I've discovered that providing evidence for the benefits of physical activity for academic outcomes such as test performance, cognitive function, and on-task behavior in the classroom provides a strong impetus for schools to provide additional activity for students."
The researchers looked at 56 older adolescents from four secondary schools in New South Wales, Australia, who were randomly assigned to either a Burn 2 Learn intervention or a control group. For 16 weeks, participants in the Burn 2 Learn intervention completed at least two high intensity interval training sessions per week. The training, which lasted 8 to 20 minutes, included a mix of aerobic and body weight resistance exercises.
Before and after the 16-week period, the participants had brain scans to assess exercise-induced neural changes, and the researchers used magnetic resonance spectroscopy to identify changes in brain metabolite concentrations in the hippocampus.
The researchers discovered that participants who completed the Burn 2 Learn intervention had higher levels of N-acetylaspartate (NAA) and glutamate+glutamine (Glx) in their left hippocampal compared to the control group. Furthermore, these hippocampal changes were linked to gains in cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular fitness, and working memory.
According to Lubans, "participating in vigorous physical activity for a relatively short period of time appears to simulate brain growth in older adolescents."
The new study is part of a larger study involving nearly 700 students. A previous data analysis found evidence that high intensity interval training reduced perceived stress and internalizing problems in participants who were classified as overweight or obese at the start of the study.
However, Lubans noted that this "is a relatively new line of inquiry," and that "many questions remain unanswered." For instance, what is the bare minimum of exercise required to stimulate hippocampal metabolism in adolescents?"
"Future research should use larger sample sizes to replicate these findings and to investigate whether changes in cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular fitness mediate changes in hippocampal metabolite concentrations, and whether metabolite concentrations mediate the benefits of physical activity on working memory," he concluded.
Source : onlinelibrary