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Working Out Can Boost Your Short-term Memory

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New UK research released this week adds to the growing body of evidence that exercise can help to improve short-term memory.

New UK research released this week adds to the growing body of evidence that exercise can help to improve short-term memory.

Presented on Tuesday at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society's Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology in Cardiff by Dr David Marchant from Edge Hill University, Lancashire, the research looked at the effect of cycling on memory in two different experiments.

Ten healthy and physically active participants were given lists of words to learn and recall either after or before 30 minutes of moderate intensity cycling, or before or after a period of rest which involved quiet, seated reading.

The results showed that participants' performance in recalling words immediately after learning them improved if they had exercised before learning rather than resting, suggesting that an acute bout of aerobic exercise improves short-term memory.

When participants were asked to wait 30 minutes between learning and recall, exercising before or after learning also produced a better performance than resting.

However the best recall was seen in those participants who exercised after learning the words.

The findings are also in line with previous research which also suggests that physical activity improves memory and could be beneficial for those who need to learn new information.

A study released back in June which looked at running also suggested that exercise could help improve memory, by boosting levels of a certain protein in the blood. Carried out by a team of US and German researchers the animal study found that cathepsin B, a protein that can be secreted by muscle tissue during exercise and transported to the brain, had a positive effect on the recall ability of the mice who had run before undergoing a daily recall test compared to those who didn't run and didn't produce the protein.

Meanwhile a small-scale, qualitative study by Michigan State University researchers also found a link between memory and fitness. After following 75 college students over a two-day period, the team saw that those with the lowest fitness levels struggled the most to retain information, with the study's authors suggesting that those with a low level of fitness lose more memory across time.

And when looking at the effect of exercise on memory in older adults a small-scale study from the University of Boston found that older adults who take more steps by either walking or jogging perform better on memory tasks than those who are less active.

Two studies from March this year which looked into the effect of exercise on Alzheimer's also found that physical activity had a positive effect on memory. Not only did those who exercise benefit from a reduced risk of the condition, but in one study those who took part in physical exercise also showed larger gray matter volumes in the key areas of the brain that are associated with memory.

first published:December 22, 2016, 12:50 IST