If you want to make sure you remember something you’ve just learned, researchers from the Netherlands have a solution. Exercise four hours later.
Their new study shows that physical exercise after learning improves memory and memory traces. But this only occurs when the exercise is done in a specific time window.
The research team recruited 72 students to participate in a 40-minute memory task. Afterward, one group of participants exercised immediately. A second group performed exercises four hours later. And a third didn’t take part in any exercise at all.
For the people who exercised, the session consisted of 35 minutes of interval training on an exercise bike at an intensity of up to 80 percent of participants’ maximum heart rates.
After 48 hours, the students all returned to find out how much they remembered. During this second round of testing, images of their brains were captured via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The researchers found that the people who exercised four hours after their original learning session had better memory. They retained the information better than those who exercised either immediately or not at all.
Brain images in this group also showed that delayed exercise was associated with more precise representations in the hippocampus when an individual answered a question correctly. This is an area of the brain that’s important to learning and memory.
Earlier studies show that exercise boosts certain neurotransmitters in the brain, like dopamine and norepinephrine. These are both important in the consolidation of memories, and the researchers suggest this may be how exercise works to boost memory.
“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,” the authors conclude.
SOURCE: Need to remember something? Exercise 4 hours later! Press Release. Cell Press via EurekAlert. Jun 2016.