We have already emphasised the benefits of exercise through many articles. Another reason come is added to the list of the gains of working out: it can improve memory. Apparently, as little as a 20 minutes intense workout is enough to enhance our long-term memory by about 10 percent.
The study, which was not the first one to test the relationship between exercise and memory improvement, was published in the journal Acta Psychologica. Although previous research has established that months of aerobic exercises such as running can improve memory this new study had participants lift weights two days before testing them.
The Georgia Tech researchers had participants study both positive events (i.e. kids on a water slide) and negative ones (mutilated bodies), just before the exercise rather than after workout. ‘They did this because of extensive animal research suggesting that the period after learning (or consolidation) is when the arousal or stress caused by exercise is most likely to benefit memory.’
Participants weren’t asked to try and remember the photos. Everyone then 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 simply 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. Every person also contributed saliva samples so the team could detect levels of neurotransmitter markers linked to stress.
The participants returned to the lab 48 hours later and saw a series of 180 pictures — the 90 originals were mixed in with 90 new photos. The control group recalled about 50 percent of the photos from the first session. Those who exercised remembered about 60 percent.
Lisa Weinbergh, who led the project said: “our study indicates that people don’t have to dedicate large amounts of time to give their brain a boost”. She also made it clear that although her study used only weight exercises, activities such as knee bends or squats would likely produce the same results. In other words, exercises that don’t require the person to be in good enough to shape to bike, run or participate in prolonged aerobic exercises.
Previous research shows that people are more likely to remember emotional events after short-term stress. That’s is why memory enhancements have been linked to stress responses, such as the psychological stress of speaking in public.
Now that we know that episodic memory in healthy young adults can be enhanced by resistance exercise, would be interesting if researcher expanded the study in the future.