Exercise Boosts Your Long Term Memory
Of course exercise is great for your general health. We are constantly bombarded with messages of how we should be getting more exercise.
I admit, I do quite a bit of preaching about how exercise isn’t just for the body. But it’s hard to argue with all the research about the brain benefits of exercise. Pardon the pun, but one might even say it’s pretty mind blowing.
So let me have my soapbox onc
When yoResearch is constantly being published that reinforces the importance of exercise for the brain.
A new study gives me another chance to get on my soapbox. They study – published in the journal Current Biology – reveals exercise can boost your long term memory.
How does it work? Exercise after learning something.
An Exercise in Memory
Now here’s the odd twist. The memory boost came only if you exercised four hours after learning the material. It seems odd, sure. But that delay is key.
Scientists had three different groups learn picture-location associations. Two of the groups completed 35 minutes of interval training on bikes. One group immediately after learning and one exercised four hours later. The third group simply did no exercise at all.
After giving the participants a couple of days off, they brought them back into the lab to see how well they remembered the picture associations.
People who exercised four hours after learning could recall the pictures with much better accuracy. The brain scans from participants also revealed to researchers that the memories in the hippocampus were also stronger.
The scientists found that exercising immediately after studying didn’t provide any benefits. In fact, they scored no better than the group who didn’t exercise at all.
What’s going on?
Okay, so it seems exercise can give us stronger memories, which would definitely have a direct effect on our learning. But why does exercise give us this mental boost?
The scientists from the study give us a written shrug. They aren’t really sure what is happening behind the brain curtain.
They suspect that exercise helps strengthens the memory consolidation process. Particularly through the release of brain chemicals curing exercise which boost brain plasticity. This includes things like brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), norepinephrine, and dopamine.
Exercise has been associated with improved academic performance in previous research. This may give us a hint as to why.
Other research has shown that learning words during a mild workout can improve long term memory as well. In contrast to the previous study, this occurred when learning was done during exercise (also on a bike). They also noticed no benefit to memory if learning occurred shortly after working out.
So could this work for any aspiring students or lifelong learners? Absolutely. As the authors write in the study:
“Our results suggest that appropriately timed physical exercise can improve long-term memory and highlight the potential of exercise as an intervention in educational and clinical settings.”
If you’re looking to boost memory and brain power, exercise is one method that constantly gets overlooked.