Moderate morning exercise has surprising workday benefits

Morning exercise may offer benefits throughout the workday, according to a new study out of Australia. In addition to boosting cognitive performance, the team found that breaking up the typical 8-hour workday with regular short walks can have a positive effect on one's short-term memory, contributing to an overall more productive day. The study hints that different exercise patterns may have their own special effects on different parts of one's overall cognition.

The research was recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, where it details the benefits that morning exercise may have for older adults. The study focused on participants who were 55 to 80 years old, tasking them with either moderate-intensity morning exercise on a treadmill or that same exercise combined with three-minute walking breaks spread across an 8-hour block of idleness (eg, working a desk job).

When compared to prolonged periods of time spent sitting, the researchers found that both groups that engaged in the exercise patterns experienced elevated levels of BDNF, a protein key to neurons that transmit information. The protein levels remained elevated across the 8 hours following exercise in both groups.

Morning exercise was found to improve cognitive performance during the day, but of particular interest were the benefits associated with breaking up prolonged sitting sessions. In that group, the researchers noted a boost to the participants' short-term memory, both highlighting the need to stay active throughout the day and also hinting at the potential distinct cognitive benefits that may come with specific types of exercise.

Talking about the results was researcher Michael Wheeler, who said:

This study highlights how relatively simple changes to your daily routine could have a significant benefit to your cognitive health. It also reveals that one day we may be able to do specific types of exercise to enhance specific cognitive skills such as memory or learning.