Objective: To systematically summarize the experimental effects of exercise on cognitive-related memory function among young to middle-aged adults, which has yet to be done in the literature.
Data source: PubMed.
Study inclusion and exclusion criteria: Studies were included if they were published in the English language, indexed in PubMed, employed an experimental study design (eg, traditional parallel group randomized controlled trial: either acute intervention or chronic/training intervention study), and conducted among human adults. Studies were excluded if nonhumans (ie, animal models) were studied, if children/adolescents (<18 years) or older adults (>50 years) were evaluated, and if select chronic diseases (eg, diabetes and dementia) were present.
Data extraction: A systematic review approach was employed.
Data synthesis: An extraction table was created synthesizing the key results, and recommendations for future research are emphasized.
Results: Among the 17 evaluated studies, 2 were published before the year 2000 (ie, 1998 and 1999), 2 were published in 2007, and the remaining 13 were published in the years 2011 and beyond. This highlights the emergence of this research topic within this age-group (young to middle-aged adults). Among the 17 evaluated studies, 14 were conducted among healthy samples, with 3 conducted among those with a diagnosis of depression. Among the 17 studies, 4 employed a chronic training protocol, with 13 utilizing an acute exercise protocol. Among the 3 experimental studies in the depressed population, all demonstrated a favorable effect of exercise on memory function. Among the 14 trials in the nondepressed population, 10 (71%) demonstrated a favorable effect of exercise on some aspect of memory function.
Conclusion: Acute and chronic exercise appears to play a pronounced effect on memory function among young to middle-aged adults. Implications and recommendations for future research are outlined in this systematic review.
Keywords: episodic memory; exercise; prospective memory; retrospective memory.