New Delhi: Acute exercise can be as good for the mind as it is for the body, a new study found.
The study was published in Nature Scientific Reports, researchers compared the effects of caffeine and exercise on working memory.
How many of us use caffeine to fire up those little gray cells in the morning, or when we want to nail that deadline?
According to the WHO, Caffeine is one of the “most widely used psychoactive substances” in the world.
And it is true that getting a regular caffeine fix can have a positive effect on health.
As good as a cup of coffee sounds, there is no escaping the fact that caffeine is a psychoactive substance and that some side effects come with it.
The side effects of caffeine consumption have been the inspiration for a new study that Harry Prapavessis — the director of the Exercise and Health Psychology Laboratory at Western University in Ontario, Canada — recently led.
Together with former graduate student Matthew Fagan and graduate student Anisa Morava, Prapavessis compared the effects of exercise and caffeine.
Despite the positives we know about caffeine, the negatives can often outweigh the benefits.
Anxiety-like symptoms, body tremors, and, of course, withdrawal, all have an association with the regular consumption of caffeine.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advise that 4-5 cups of coffee is a safe intake.
However, some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, and the following symptoms may indicate too much caffeine:
• a headache
• raised heart rate
• upset stomach
• muscle tremors
To compare the effects of caffeine and exercise on working memory, the team randomly assigned each participant to one of two groups.
In the first part of the study, both caffeine consumers and noncaffeine consumers underwent the n-back tasks prior to and after acute exercise and caffeine administration.
The second part of the study focused on caffeine withdrawal. Here, the caffeine drinkers took the same n-back tests after 12 hours of caffeine deprivation.
The results of the study showed that both exercise and caffeine had a similar effect.
The improvements in the participants’ working memory were similar after spending 20 minutes on a treadmill and consuming a single serving of caffeine.
This might seem like good news for people who enjoy a regular triple espresso.
However, the main takeaway of this study is that exercise, with all its long-term benefits, can help improve mood and focus just as much as caffeine can.
These findings are all the more significant, considering the side effects of caffeine and caffeine withdrawal symptoms.
“If people experience withdrawal, an acute, brisk walk may reduce some of the symptoms,” says study co-author Anisa Morava.