In previous posts, we reported what we can do in order to encode and remember the important things: maintain an information diet and take some of the lessons learned from religion to heart: pick the right sources of information, arrange time for what you want to learn and repeat the contents all over again, amongst others. But what about motor learning? What can we do in order to store movements we have just learned, like a certain way of moving our tennis rack or golf club or a particular sequence of steps in dance? Exercise.
The authors of the study concluded that exercising after a task helps the brain to consolidate and store physical or motor memories. They assume that the mechanism behind this might be that aerobic exercise stimulates the production of certain substances in the brain like brain-derived neurotropic factor and noradrenaline, substances that drive memory consolidation and learning. They think that the effect they found for motor learning might also apply for storing intellectual memories. Thus, if you would like to optimise your motor and intellectual learning, do a little bit of exercise right after studying.
The original article was published in the journal PLoS One.
There is a detailed outline of the study in the New York Times.
On the University of Copenhagen’s University Post, the authors of the study suggest the following: “In any case, I would suggest students to try this: after some hours of hard study, go for an intense but short run (15 minutes). Do not check if you retained what you studied immediately after the run. Wait some hours or even better go to sleep. First thing in the next morning, check how well you remember things.”
This is one more study that points out the importance of aerobic exercise, that is, light to moderate intensity training that uses oxygen for delivering energy, for cognitive functioning. We reported findings like this before, and we will keep our eyes open for more of them.