Researchers have found that hitting the gym can improve your memory. A new study conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology found that an intense workout for as little as 20 minutes can enhance episodic memory, otherwise known as long-term memory for previous events, by as much as ten percent in healthy young adults.
The study, published in the journal Acta Psychologica, used weight exercises, though the researchers believe that resistance activities like squats or knee bends would likely produce the same results.
While there have been a number of previous studies that have shown aerobic exercise, such as running, can boost memory, this study called for participants to lift weights just once, two days before testing them.
Researchers also asked participants to study photos just before their exercise session because they wanted to see if the exercise immediately after studying these photos would help them remember them more easily. Extensive animal research has suggested that learning followed by arousal or stress caused by exercise is most likely to benefit memory.
Participants started by looking at a series of 90 images on a computer screen, which were evenly split between positive images like kids playing in the water, negative pictures like mutilated bodies and neutral photos, such as clocks.
They weren’t asked to try and remember them. After viewing the images, they sat at a leg extension resistance exercise machine. Half of them extended and contracted each leg at their personal maximum effort 50 times. The control group sat in the chair and allowed the machine and the experimenter to move their legs.
Throughout the process, each participant’s blood pressure and heart rate were monitored, and they also contributed saliva samples so that levels of neurotransmitter markers linked to stress could be detected.
After 48 hours, participants returned to the lab and viewed a series of 180 pictures that included the 90 original images and 90 new ones. The control group recalled about 50 percent of the photos from the first session. Those who exercised remembered about 60 percent.
Associate professor in the School of Psychology Audrey Duarte remarked, “Even without doing expensive MRI scans, our results give us an idea of what areas of the brain might be supporting these exercise-induced memory benefits.”
Duarte also noted, “The findings are encouraging because they are consistent with rodent literature that pinpoints exactly the parts of the brain that play a role in stress-induced memory benefits caused by exercise.”
-The Alternative Daily