An intense workout of as little as 20 minutes can enhance long-term memory
Here’s another reason why it’s a good idea to hit the gym: it can improve memory. A new Georgia Institute of Technology study shows that an intense workout of as little as 20 minutes can enhance long-term memory for previous events, by about 10 percent in healthy young adults.
The Georgia Tech research isn’t the first to find that exercise can improve memory. But the study, which was just published in the journal Acta Psychologica, took a few new approaches. While many existing studies have demonstrated that months of aerobic exercises such as running can improve memory, the current study had participants lift weights just once two days before testing them.
The Georgia Tech researchers also had participants study events 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.
The study began with everyone looking at a series of 90 photos on a computer screen. The images were evenly split between positive (i.e. kids on a waterslide), negative (mutilated bodies) and neutral (clocks) pictures. 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.