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Memory Hack: Do Some Aerobics Four Hours After Class


Hear and Now: Stealing Avocados, Heating Up Polymers and Exercising for Memory HowStuffWorks
Hear and Now: Stealing Avocados, Heating Up Polymers and Exercising for Memory HowStuffWorks

You've probably read about the advantages of sleeping on newly acquired data, but what about taking it with you to your spin class?

A new Dutch study published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology suggests that delayed exercise can give us a boost on declarative (or explicit) memory, the kind devoted to facts and verbal knowledge. While the study doesn't nail down an exact, effective time frame, the researchers used a four-hour delay between sponging up the data and hitting the exercise bike.

Here's how it went down: They subjected 72 test subjects to a 40-minute learning session, tested their retention and then divided them into three groups. The first group transitioned to exercise while the new information (a series of 90 picture-location associations) was still fresh. The second group waited four hours before exercise, while the third group did nada.

Forty-eight hours later, the researchers tested everyone again and completed MRI scans, too. The results indicated that those who exercised four hours after learning showed a marked advantage on the second memory test.

Granted, this is just one study, and it covers the effects of exercise on a single piece of the human memory machine. As the authors point out, previous studies indicated that immediate exercise also can provide a boost, but to procedural memory consolidation.

But if future studies support these findings, perhaps we'll all have to re-evaluate those PE classes we took in high school. Did coach Steel's obsession with team volleyball actually help you ace your chemistry class later? 



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