There is probably no question in your mind that working out is good for both the brain and the body, but you might be surprised to learn the extent to which this is true.
A recent study shows that physical exercise after learning actually improves long-term memory and memory traces.
Published in Current Biology, this new study indicates that working out after learning does have a direct connection to improved memory, but only if the exercise takes place within a specific window of time after learning.
The researchers found that if you work out four hours after learning, your brain will benefit the most. The effect is not as great if you exercise immediately after learning.
What does this study really tell us? It appears that we may be able to improve our memory consolidation if we exercise after learning.
The study looked at 72 participants, all of whom were assigned randomly to one of three gender- and age-matched groups. Each participant learned 90 picture-location associations over a period of 40 minutes. Time of day effects were also taken into account, with one group starting at 9:00 AM and the other at 12:00 PM.
After the learning session, the groups were required to perform a 35-minute interval training programme. Those who exercised four hours after the learning session retained information better after two days than those who worked out right after the session or not at all.
It is apparent that properly timed exercise can improve long-term memory. The study did not clarify how or why the delayed exercise was so effective on improved long-term memory, although scientists suspect it may have to do with chemical compounds that occur naturally in the body known as catecholamines, which have been linked to memory consolidation. Neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine are widely known catecholamines.
Although this study may not have any implications for people who want to lose weight, it is very exciting for individuals who are interested in using diet and exercise to improve their overall health, including their long-term memory.
The best advice to stay healthy and slim is to focus on a well-balanced diet, see your doctor regularly, and get enough exercise.
Studies have shown that you do not have to hit the gym every day for hours at a time to see benefits; smaller bursts of activity may be just as effective. However, if you are looking to improve your memory, you may want to do a little learning and then schedule your workout about four hours later.