HomeHealthFitnessStudy Suggests That This Particular Exercise May Boost Memory

Study Suggests That This Particular Exercise May Boost Memory

Ah, the burpee. Who hasn’t been forced to perform way too many heavy reps of this exercise against their will? Touted as the ultimate full-body, no-equipment workout, gym teachers and drill instructors around the world swear by its effectiveness.

As debilitating as it may be, it may turn out that your crappy gym teacher was right: New research suggests that not only does burpees improve teen endurance — as you might expect — but it may also be linked to marked improvement in short-term memory as well .

For those unfamiliar, the infamous exercise popularized by the military involves lowering into a squat from a standing position, shooting your legs behind you into a plank position, performing a push-up, then jumping up — and then repeat, often to nausea.

Published in the magazine Environmental research and public health, the study 52 teenage boys and girls between 15 and 16 years old, as existing science shows that that period in life is particularly sensitive to improving endurance. For four months, the researchers split the adolescents into a control and an experimental group. The former participated in a typical endurance program without burpees, while the latter followed the same program but with the all-too-feared exercise workout. In practice, the teens started by performing 60-second burpees, with the duration increasing as the study progressed.

The researchers found that the adolescents involved in the burpee program ran a significantly improved 8.6 percent faster in a 2,000-meter (about 1.25-mile) run. Meanwhile, teens trapped in the control group were only 1.9 percent faster, which is not a statistically significant difference, according to the data.

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Even before we got to the cognitive effects, it might seem obvious that performing burpees would improve endurance, but it surprised even the researchers how much more effective burpees were at making the teens better runners than the regular Jane endurance program. the control group. In fact, the researchers note that to date there are “no scientific studies demonstrating burpee exercise as an effective element of physical activity for adolescents.”

It gets even more interesting when you look at short-term memory. According to the study, the adolescents involved in the burpee program showed a whopping 26 percent improvement in the well-known and reliable Jacobs test, a short-term memory evaluation that uses a sequence of numbers that participants must recall in the same order the numbers were presented in.

To temper expectations a bit, the researchers admit they “don’t know whether the burpee exercise itself caused these positive effects or whether it was the interaction with the program.” In other words, it’s hard to tell if it’s a case of immediate memory enhancement, or if the teens just get more excited and engaged as a result of participating in the study. And of course, the study says nothing about how burpees might affect fitness or cognition in other age groups.

Still, the results are significant enough that the researchers state that “adding the burpee to an exercise program is at least a preliminary practical approach to improving the effectiveness of physical education programs, such as the one adopted.”

As a warning, that doesn’t mean teens should be instructed to do anything on burpees, because the researchers emphasize that finding the right balance is crucial. Too little exercise would not result in significant improvement, while too much could exhaust them physically and psychologically and perhaps demotivate them to perform even more burpees. Teens can be fickle.

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Future studies, the researchers say, should focus on the dosage of exercise needed for optimal improvement.

It’s early days, but the findings are intriguing, albeit far from definitive. It is possible that the improvement is due to the slight increase in the volume of movement, rather than the exercise itself. Nevertheless, regular burpees won’t turn your average teen into a scholar with an eidetic memory, but as the study and decades of widespread adoption have shown, it will probably still be good for them.

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