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article imageWant to remember something? Then exercise

By Tim Sandle     Jun 17, 2016 in Science
Having trouble remembering important things, such as names for a business meeting, studying for an exam, or a list groceries? The answer is to exercise, and to time the exercise 4 hours after reading or hearing the thing you want to recall.
This surprising tip comes from a new science study. It builds on previous findings that physical exercise after learning helps to improve memory and memory traces. The new research, however, shows how this is only really effective if the exercise is undertaken within a specific time window. Moreover, the exercise needs to be delayed and not attempted immediately after learning.
The study was carried out at the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands. With the research, 72 subjects were asked to learn 90 picture-location associations over the course of 40 minutes. The subjects were then randomly assigned into one of three groups. In group one, the participants undertook exercise straight away. In group two, the subjects completed exercise four hours later. In group three, no exercise at all was performed.
The exercise regime carried out by groups one and two was made up of 35 minutes of interval training on an exercise bike. The exercise was fairly intense, with the bike being programmed to be set at 80 percent of participants' maximum heart rates.
All three groups, after 48 hours had elapsed, were asked to take part in a memory recall test. At the same time, the brains of the subjects were assessed using magnetic resonance imaging.
It was found that those who exercised four hours after their memory session were able to recall the most images. With these people, the brain scans showed greater activity in the hippocampus (the brain region associated with learning and memory.)
Summarizing the study outcome, in a research note, the lead scientist Professor Guillén Fernández stated: "It shows that we can improve memory consolidation by doing sports after learning." The reason for the effects are unknown and require further study.
The news has created a positive reaction on Twitter. Prof Mike Larvin (@mikelarvin), for instance, tweeted: "Swot, wait and run: how exercise helps to jog your memory."
The research has been published in the journal Current Biology. The research paper is titled "Physical Exercise Performed Four Hours after Learning Improves Memory Retention and Increases Hippocampal Pattern Similarity during Retrieval."
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