Studies continue to conclude that exercise is good for the body, brain, and well-being in a general sense. However, researchers from Dartmouth College are showing the true complexity of the relationship between exercise, memory, and mental health. Their study finds the impact of exercise is much more nuanced; differences in exercise intensity over a long period appear to result in different memory and mental health outcomes.
“Mental health and memory are central to nearly everything we do in our everyday lives,” lead study author Jeremy Manning, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth, says in a media release. “Our study is trying to build a foundation for understanding how different intensities of physical exercise affect different aspects of mental and cognitive health.”
No two workouts are exactly the same; some people work out at a particularly intense pace, while others take a low-key, less intense approach. Study authors gathered a group of 113 Fitbit users and asked each person to perform series of memory tests, answer some questions about their mental health, and share their fitness data from the prior year. Researchers expected more active participants to have a stronger memory performance and display better mental health, but the results weren’t that simple.