Even a short, one-time burst of exercise can boost parts of the brain responsible for executive function such as decision-making and focus, a study suggests. While other studies have showed brain-health benefits after 20-minutes of a single-bout of exercise, this study, published in the journal Neuropsychologia, suggests even 10 minutes of aerobic activity can prime the parts of the brain that help us focus. “Some people cannot commit to a long-term exercise regime because of time or physical capacity,” said Matthew Heath, from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. “This shows that people can cycle or walk briskly for a short duration, even once, and find immediate benefits,” Heath said. During the study, participants either sat and read a magazine or did 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise on a stationary bicycle. Following the reading and exercise session, the researchers used eye-tracking equipment to examine participants’ reaction times to a cognitively demanding eye movement task.
The task was designed to challenge areas of the brain responsible for executive function such as decision-making and inhibition. “Those who had exercised showed immediate improvement. Their responses were more accurate and their reaction times were up to 50 milliseconds shorter than their pre-exercise values. That may seem minuscule but it represented a 14 per cent gain in cognitive performance in some instances,” said Heath.