exercise to maximize memory

How to time your exercise to improve your memory

Getting experiences, or anything we want to remember, into our memory is a complex process. Some activities, like exercise, can improve this process. Today we discuss a study suggesting how to time exercise with learning, to maximize how well you remember something.

After we have an experience—something you saw, said, or read—to stick that experience into your memory, your brain has to take the sensory experience and process the information in a way that it becomes “encoded” (stuck) in your neurons. This process takes hours or longer.

How well the experienced is “set” into our memory banks is influenced by the mix of chemicals and neurotransmitters in our brain. What some have described as the brain’s “chemical soup”, can vary with exercise, sleep, and repetition.

As we have discussed here previously, exercise increases the concentration of “brain derived neurotropic factor” (BDNF). This nice chemical acts like a “fertilizer” for the memory process. When BDNF is around, our experiences are better transformed into memories.

Two other things that helps memories are: repeating what you want to remember (as any student knows), and getting good sleep. Yes, sleep is important too, but back to exercise…

Research on memory and exercise timing

The researchers, from the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior (Radboud University, Netherlands), recruited 72 health young men and women, and had them try to memorize a series of pictures flashed on a computer screen. Then, the subjects were randomly split into 3 groups.

One group did 35 minutes of interval training exercise immediately after the computer session, and one group did the same exercise, but instead of immediately, 4 hours after the computer work. The third group did not exercise at all.

Two days later, all the volunteers were brought back to the lab and tested to see how strong was their memory regarding what they saw on the screen. They also all underwent MRI brain scans.

The results were that the people who exercised immediately after the computer session did not get an improved memory. The group that showed the best memories were the ones who began exercise 4 hours after the computer session. Also, the MRI scans showed that this group also had brains which were operating most efficiently for cementing memories.

Best time to exercise for better memory

The results imply if you want to help yourself remember something important, do some exercise about 4 hours after you study the material. The scientists don’t know why this delay helps, but they are doing more research, and we will keep you updated here.

In the meantime, click on the 2 links below to read more about exercise and memory. You will see that some types of exercise are especially good, and exercise before study can help as well. And, don’t forget: good sleep is good for your memory too.

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)