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Exercise after learning to improve memory’s ability to retain information

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Have a little forgetfulness problem? Triathlon might be your solution.

A new study, done at the Donders Institute at Radbound University Medical Center in the Netherlands examined the correlation between exercise and the ability to retain information. They found that exercise does in fact improve a person’s ability to remember new information they just learned. And it turns out that the timing of the workout matters as well.

To get the most out of a study session, new class or workshop, wait four hours after absorbing the information and then get in some mileage. This four-hour wait period was found by the study to be the opportune amount of time to wait in order to better remember the new information.

The study, led by Gullien Fernandez and published in Current Biology, tested a group of 72 people. First, they gave the participants a lesson on 90 picture-location associations. Then, they were divided into three tests: one that did no exercise, one that did a workout immediately after the test, and a third group which exercised four hours later. Then, 48 hours after the lesson, they came back to be tested. The group that did the workout four after post-study session had the best results.

Why is this? Those who conducted this project aren’t entirely sure. One theory is that exercise increased dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain which has a relationship with memory. Similar tests have been done on lab animals to show similar results.

Regardless of how it works exactly, this could give triathletes the upper hand when picking up new skills at work or cramming for an exam.