A 2010 study in Neuroscience on primates revealed that regular exercise helped the monkeys learn new tasks twice as quickly as non-exercising monkeys. The researchers believe this would work for people as well.
More recently, a study from Georgia Institute of Technology found that a mere 20 minute weight training session could improve long term memory. “Our study indicates that people don’t have to dedicate large amounts of time to give their brain a boost” said the lead researcher. In the study the participants were shown images, classified as either positive, neutral or negative. They were asked to recall as many images as possible. They were then assigned to two groups, active or passive. The active group was told to do 50 leg extension at their maximal effort using a resistance exercise machine. The passive group was asked to simply sit and let the machine move their leg for them. 2 days later, the participants were shown a series of images, including the ones they’d not previously seen. “The researchers found about 50% of the original photos were recalled by the passive group, while the active group remembered about 60% of the images”. The lead researcher Lisa Weinberg believes that other forms of exercise, such as squats or knee bends would most likely produce similar results. A 10% difference may not seem like a lot, but I would think every improvement would be beneficial.
According to Dr Joseph Mercola, a natural health expert at www.mercola.com, a number of other studies have investigated the impact of exercise on brain performance and IQ. These include:
- Among elementary school students, 40 minutes of daily exercise increased IQ by an average of nearly four points.
- Among 6th graders, the fittest students scored 30% higher than average students, and the less fit students scored 20% lower.
- Among older students, those who play vigorous sports have a 20% improvement in Maths, Science, English and Social studies.
- Students who exercised before class improved test scores by 17%, and those who worked out for 40 minutes improved an entire letter grade.
- Employees who exercise regularly are 15% more efficient than those who do not.
- If you want to strengthen your memory, the new information you’re receiving can be more successfully imprinted into your brain for later recall if you work out immediately following your study session.
What to make of this research?
It continually amazes me what new research reveals about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Most people would be aware of the health and wellness benefits of exercise, but the research in this post shows another important outcome of exercise. Better memory. Who wouldn’t want improved memory?
If you are studying for exams I would suggest testing this out. Do some exercise before or after your study session and see what benefits it may have. Hopefully it will help improve your memory and your exam results. It may also help improve your creativity as one of my previous posts pointed out. Even if it doesn't help the memory, it is still getting you out of the poor sitting position we are often in, which is a good thing. I will definitely be testing it out with my study.
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- Neuroscience. 2010 Jun 2;167(4):1239-48. Epub 2010 Mar 6.
- Effects of aerobic exercise training on cognitive function and cortical vascularity in monkeys. Rhyu IJ1, Bytheway JA, Kohler SJ, Lange H, Lee KJ, Boklewski J, McCormick K, Williams NI, Stanton GB, Greenough WT, Cameron JL. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/283473.php