High-intensity internal training, also known as HIIT, has been shown to provide all sorts of great health benefits, from helping lose weight to releasing feel-good chemicals in the brain. It’s also a good way to get in a cardio routine when you have limited time, because HIIT protocols only require that you mix intense exercise with moderate moves for about 20 minutes.
But HIIT doesn’t just benefit your waistline or your cardio system—it also improves the functioning of your mind.
Short bursts of activity can beef up your memory and increase the production of compounds that help brain cells grow and survive, according to new research from the McMaster University in Canada. For the six-week study, scientists asked 95 people to do one of three things: a high-intensity workout routine, exercises and brain training, or neither. The researchers found that people who exercised did better on memory tests, and that the participants who made the most fitness gains also gained more of a protein that supports brain cell health.
“Improvements in this type of memory from exercise might help to explain the previously established link between aerobic exercise and better academic performance,” said study head Jennifer Heisz, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster. “At the other end of our lifespan, as we reach our senior years, we might expect to see even greater benefits in individuals with memory impairment brought on by conditions such as dementia.”