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You Should Exercise Four Hours After Studying, Here's Why...

First Posted: Jun 18, 2016 06:29 AM EDT
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Exercise has always been known to be beneficial both for the body and mind. A new study suggests that exercising 4 hours after learning could help boost long-term memory. However, the exercise should be done in a specific time window and not immediately after learning.

The study co-authored by Guillén Fernández, of the Donders Institute at the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and his colleagues discovered that adults who exercised 4 hours after completing a learning task had better memory recall after 2 days than those who exercised immediately after learning.

According to livescience.com, Fernández said that the findings revealed that exercise improves how memory works as well as changes the way memories are being stored in the brain. "The people who exercised 4 hours after learning new information showed, on average, about a 10 percent improvement in their memory retention, compared with people who worked out right after finishing the memory task and people who were inactive," Fernandez said.

For the new study, Fernández, together with Eelco van Dongen, and other colleagues tested the effects a single exercise session after learning on memory consolidation and long-term memory. Science Daily reported that there were 72 participants in the study who learned 90 picture-location associations 40 minutes before being randomly assigned to one of three groups.

The first group was told to exercise immediately after learning the picture, the second group did the exercise 4 hours later, and the last group did not do any physical activity at all. Immediately after the learning task, the participants in the first group were asked to do a 35-minute, high-intensity work out on a stationary bike, while another group waited 4 hours before doing the same exercise.

According to Medical News Today, 48 hours after these exercises were done, the participants returned for a test to determine how much they remembered while their brains were observed using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain activity during memory recall. The test showed that participants who exercised immediately after learning the task and those who did not exercise at all did not have a good memory recall compared to those who exercised 4 hours after.

Researchers also found that when participants who exercised 4 hours after the learning task correctly recalled information, they had more precise representations of correct answers in the hippocampus - the brain region important for learning and memory.

"Our results provide initial evidence that properly timed physical exercise can alter mnemonic processes at delayed retrieval and improve memory retention over a period of at least 48 hours," according to the authors of the study.

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