Morning Exercise Improves Decision-Making: Study

Morning exercise and small changes to the daily routing can improve decision-making across the day in adults, new study results suggest.

The results, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, sought to compare the effects of morning exercise and breaks from sitting on cognition. The study population include 67 sedentary overweight/obese older adults with normal cognitive function. The participants completed three conditions that included uninterrupted sitting for eight hours, exercise plus sitting (one hour of sitting plus moderate-intensity walking for 30 minutes, followed by uninterrupted sitting for 6.5 hours), and exercise plus breaks (sitting for one hour plus moderate-intensity walking for 30 minutes, plus sitting uninterrupted every 30 minutes with three minutes of light-intensity walking for a period of 6.5 hours). The researchers then assessed psychomotor function, attention, executive function, visual learning and working memory at four time points, and measured serum brain-derived neurotropic growth factor (BDNF) at six different time points. Eight-hour net area under the curve (AUC) was then calculated for each outcome.

Improvement When Compared to Sitting

According to the results, the working memory net AUC z-score improved (+28) in the exercise plus breaks group relative to the sitting alone group (-25). There was also an observed improvement in executive function in the exercise plus sitting group (-8) relative to the sitting along group (-80). Serum BDNF net AUC increased in both the exercise plus sitting group (+171) and the exercise plus breaks group (+139) compared to the sitting alone group (-227).

Lead author Michael J. Wheeler, of the School of Human Sciences (Exercise and Sports Science) at the University of Western Australia, Perth, said that his team’s study and others like it are important for helping older patients to understand the importance of exercise for their cognitive and overall health.

“With an ageing population which is looking to live healthier for longer, these studies are critical to people enjoying a productive and satisfying quality of life,” he said in a press release. “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.”