Doing this Simple Thing Could Help Your Memory

Have you ever been in a situation where you urged and urged yourself to remember something, but it just didn’t work? “I must remember my co-worker’s name!” is something you may have said to yourself in the past. Did this work for you? If it didn’t a recent study suggesting a link between exercise and memory retention may be of interest to you.


The study, published in the journal Current Biology, states that there may be benefits to performing aerobic exercise four hours after learning something.


In order to test the possible link between exercise and memory retention, the researchers recruited a group of 72 participants to take part in a series of activities.

The group of 72 was divided into 3 with each group being assigned slightly different activities.First, all participants studied 90 picture-location associations over a period of about 40 minutes.

To account for the possibility of the time of day affecting learning ability, each group was split into 2, with one group beginning the learning activity at 9 am while the second group began at 12 pm.

Directly after the activity, all of the groups were then given a test to evaluate how much of the information they retained from the learning activity.

The participants were tested while inside a magnetic resonance scanner(MRI). This allowed the researchers to analyze their brain activity. After this first test, the activities of the groups started to take a different path.

Immediate Exercise(IE) Group

After completing the test, this group engaged in the following activities:

  1. A 35-minute exercise session at up to 80 percent of their maximum heart rate.
  2. A 3 hour delay period of watching nature documentaries.
  3. They carried out an activity unrelated to exercise.

No Exercise(NE) group

This group completely skipped the exercise. After completing the initial test, their activities were as follows:

  1. They carried out an activity unrelated to exercise
  2. A 3 hour delay period of watching nature documentaries
  3. They carried out another activity unrelated to exercise

Delayed Exercise(DE) Group

This group carried out exercise just like with the IE group. However, their exercise session was 4 hours after the learning activity. Their order of activities was:

  1. A period of non-exercise related activity
  2. A 3 hour delay period of watching nature documentaries
  3. A 35-minute exercise session at up to 80 percent of their maximum heart rate

After the three groups had completed these activities, 48 hours after the initial picture-location learning activity, a second recall test was administered inside of an MRI machine.

Mri Analysis
MRI Analysis | Shutterstock


The results after the second test indicated that members of the delayed exercise group performed better, displaying a notably increased level of retention of the original information when compared to the other groups.

In short, they got more answers right. The MRI results also showed increased activity in the hippocampus when correct answers were provided.

Note: According to

Final Thoughts

The initial results of this research are promising, but a few things should be taken into account:

  • It isn’t clear how exercise would affect the recall of different types of patterns.
  • The effect of the amount of sleep after carrying out exercise was not examined.
  • Memory retention after a period longer than 48 hours isn’t clear as this wasn’t tested.
  • The effect of the participants’ usual exercise activity wasn’t taken into consideration.
  • Previous research shows that chemicals such as BDNF, plasticity-related products, noradrenaline and dopamine which are released during exercise play a part in memory retention. However, in this study, the levels of these chemicals were not measured. This means that their effect could not be measured in this research.

The above factors must be analyzed in order to gain a better understanding of the improved results observed in the DE group.

However, the improvement shown in this group is promising nonetheless and could be useful in an educational setting where exercise could possibly be used as a cost-effective means of assisting persons in an educational setting.

Last updated on 03 February, 2022

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