University of West Ontario: Exercise Better Than Coffee for Memory

According to new research, 20 minutes of fast walking is better for improving working memory than drinking coffee. In fact, the exercise would be equally effective without the side effects of caffeine.



To wake up or increase concentration when you feel sleepy at work, some people exercise and others drink coffee. Although many studies point to the health and cognitive benefits of exercise, coffee is still preferred by many. Although studies have shown that caffeine can be good for memory, many side effects, such as migraines, nausea, and tremors, occur in people who abuse it. Moreover, according to a new study published in Nature Scientific Reports, to improve working memory, it is better to exercise, even if only for twenty minutes, than to drink coffee.

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For their study, scientists from the University of West Ontario, Canada, divided the participants into one group that drank coffee and another that exercised. They then tested their memory before and after a quick 20-minute walk on a treadmill and after taking caffeine.

The results showed that exercise and caffeine have a similar effect. All participants showed an improvement in working memory, regardless of whether they exercised for 20 minutes or drank coffee. It is important to remember that working memory facilitates the learning process and makes it possible to store useful information, such as a phone number.

Sports activity reduces the side effects of caffeine withdrawal

While at first glance these results may seem satisfactory for coffee-dependent people who hate sports, it is important to remember that caffeine has many side effects. People who drink more than four glasses a day may experience abdominal issues, headaches, muscle tremors, anxiety, and an increased heart rate. People who already suffer from anxiety or muscle tremors should limit their coffee intake as much as possible, as should pregnant or breastfeeding women.

“Healthy people who drink two cups of coffee a day are usually fine in the sense that most of their physiological functions are not affected. However, for some, caffeine intake can be problematic and needs to be reduced”- comments Anisa Morava, co-author of the study.

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For those trying to give up coffee, they risk experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, irritability, and headaches. In 2004, a study showed that 50% of people who stopped drinking coffee for a few days suffered from headaches. Therefore, the withdrawal of caffeine can affect cognitive function, which is rather ironic given that many of us drink coffee regularly to make the neurons work better.

However, according to another phase of this new study, exercising helped reduce the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal that began to appear in coffee drinkers who did not consume coffee for 12 hours. According to Anisa Morava when people are experiencing withdrawal symptoms, vigorous walking can reduce certain symptoms.

One energy drink equals four cups of coffee

It is recommended that a healthy adult should not have more than 400 milligrams of caffeine in their blood which is equal to about four cups of coffee a day. This also applies to tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks, which in turn contain the equivalent of four cups of coffee. When an individual exceeds this threshold, he or she will suffer from insomnia, which can lead to drinking even more coffee the next day. If a person’s daily dose exceeds 600 mg, he or she is at risk for musculoskeletal disorders (tachycardia, hot flashes), digestive problems (heartburn), tremors and loss of appetite.

As far as exercise is concerned, it is recommended that adults exercise for at least 30 minutes each day and avoid going without any for more than 2 consecutive days. Cardiovascular and resistance exercises can be combined on the same day. It is also recommended to limit the time in a seated position and to interrupt these periods every 90 minutes for a short walk.


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