Exercise Bikes
A view of a gym at a spa facility at Warszawianka Hotel in Jachranka, 30 km outside of Warsaw, December 22, 2011. Reuters/Peter Andrews

A study has revealed that exercising four hours after studying boosts one’s chances of remembering what he/she has studied. As per the experts involved in the study, a single session of delayed physical activity boosted recall up by nine percent compared to those who exercised immediately after studying or did not exercise at all.

The research, published in Current Biology, involved 72 people and the experts showed them 90 images of various objects in different locations on a computer screen. The participants were split up into three groups. The first group exercised immediately after studying, the second group after four hours and the third performed no exercise at all.

The groups that exercised consisted of interval training for 35 minutes on exercise bikes. This required the participants to exercise at an intensity of up to 80 percent of their maximum heart rates. They were required to return after two days for a test to evaluate how much they remembered. While performing the test, their brains were imaged with the help of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

MRI revealed that the group who exercised after four hours showed precise representations in the hippocampus, an area in the brain crucial for memory and learning. The group scored an average of 87 percent compared to the other two groups (those who exercise immediately after and those who didn’t) that scored 80 percent on average.

“Our results suggest that appropriately timed physical exercise can improve long-term memory and highlight the potential of exercise as an intervention in educational and clinical settings,” the researchers said in a statement.

Although it is unclear why delayed exercise helps in memorising better, earlier laboratory studies of animals suggested that catecholamines, which are naturally occurring chemical compounds in the body, can improve memory consolidation. The chemicals include dopamine and norepinephrine. Physical exercise boosts catecholamines, revealed the statement.

“It shows that we can improve memory consolidation by doing sports after learning,” said Guillén Fernández of the Donders Institute at the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands.