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Brain Fitness and Physical Activity During Pandemic

Study participants who were active experienced less memory decline.

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Here’s more motivation to continue training: People who stayed or became active during pandemic lockdowns maintained their brain fitness and were less likely to experience subjective memory decline, according to a study published in Preventive Medicine (2021; 145 [106415]).

Lockdowns reduced the spread of COVID-19 but had unintended adverse effects on mental health and brain fitness. As people became more socially isolated, some studies saw a greater prevalence of anxiety and depression; stress; sleep disorders; self-harm; and even subjective memory impairment.

Researchers from Brazil and Australia studied the effect of physical activity on subjective memory decline during social distancing. Investigators collected self-reported data from 2,314 male and female subjects with a mean age of 38 years at two separate points, before and during social distancing.

Data analysis showed that young adults and women reported a higher prevalence of subjective memory decline during social distancing than they did before the pandemic. And 1 in 3 participants experienced feelings of memory decline when socially distanced. However, physical activity clearly reduced the risk of memory deterioration. Other research has identified neuroprotective effects from exercise.

Study authors noted that “physical activity is a powerful non-pharmacological strategy to reduce the risk of depression and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

See also: Growth in Mind-Body Therapies During the Pandemic

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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