High Intensity Interval Training Boosts Memory According to New Study


Shot of a senior couple out for a run in the park
Shot of a senior couple out for a run in the park
There's now a number of reasons why HIIT should be your exercise of choice.

There have been many studies done on the impact that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has on overall fitness, wellbeing and weight loss goals. And now a new study has found that high-intensity interval training improves memory function in older adults.

The study, undertaken by McMaster University in Canada, was published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

Earlier this year a paper published by the University of Queensland in Australia looked at how interval training could offset cognitive decline by boosting cerebral blood flow. The new research from McMaster University appears to back up this thinking.

The study, which involved a group of healthy but sedentary seniors between the ages of 60 and 88, compared HIIT with moderate-intensity continuous training and stretching only. The HIIT group Those in the HIIT group did four sets of high-intensity walking on a treadmill for four minutes, followed by a recovery period and repeated. The moderate-intensity group performed one set of moderate-intensity treadmill walking for 45 minutes. While the control group workout was limited to stretching only.

Remarkably, the study found that the HIIT group improved their high-interference memory performance by up to 30 per cent while on average the other two groups had no improvement.

“It’s never too late to get the brain health benefits of being physically active, but if you are starting late and want to see results fast, our research suggests you may need to increase the intensity of your exercise,” said Dr Jennifer Heisz, lead author and associate director at McMaster Physical Centre of Excellence.

“This work will help to inform the public on exercise prescriptions for brain health so they know exactly what types of exercises boost memory and keep dementia at bay.”

Heisz added that while intensity could be key to boosting the memory, it’s imporant to tailor high-intensity training to match your current fitness level. Heisz suggests increasing the incline of a treadmill, walking up hills, or increasing pace between alternating street lamps. 


High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is simply alternating between higher intensity bursts of exercise with time to rest in between, with the bursts generally being less than two minutes. Steady state training involves exercising more consistently, for a longer period of time.

Read more about the benefits of HIIT here.



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