Diabetes Forecast

Did You Remember to Exercise Today? Improve Your Memory with Aerobic Activity

What to Know

Aerobic exercise, like jogging, biking, and swimming, does more than keep your body in shape and reduce your risk of diseases like diabetes. It also benefits the brain by boosting the growth of brain cells in an area involved in memory and learning. Do other types of exercise, such as weight lifting and high intensity interval training (HIIT), also aid your brain's gray matter?

The Study

Researchers studied four groups of rats. One group did no exercise. Each of the other groups did one of the following: aerobic, weight training, or HIIT, in which short bouts of very intense exercise alternate with brief periods of rest. The rats’ regimen lasted for 6 to 8 weeks, after which the researchers looked for changes in the rats’ brains and compared each group’s results.

The Results

The aerobic rats outperformed the other rats—they grew the most new brain cells over the course of the study. The HIIT rats showed only a small improvement, while the rats that practiced weight training showed no changes (though their overall physical health did improve).


If you want to improve memory and learning, hop on a bike or go for a run. These and other aerobic exercises might just help your brain function better by encouraging the growth of new brain cells. And, of course, your body will thank you for the workout as well. This study was done on male rats only, however, so it’s not clear if the benefit applies to all rats. Or, for that matter, to humans (though rodents are often used as models for scientific testing because their genetic, biological, and behavior characteristics closely resemble those of humans).

Physical Exercise Increases Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis in Male Rats Provided It Is Aerobic and Sustained. J Physiol 2016;594:1855–1873.

The information on this screen does not take the place of care from your doctor or other health care provider. If you have general questions about diabetes or diabetes-related research, e-mail askada@diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2382).



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