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Whether you’re cramming for an exam or trying to remember a tip from that self-help book you just read, your days of struggling to remember something (that you swear you just learnt) are over. A recent study from Radboud University in the Netherlands suggests that there’s a way to improve your ability to remember things: by exercising.

The study split 72 people into three different groups, and while everyone had 40 minutes to memorize 90 image associations, each group did different activities after memorizing the images. The first group exercised for 35 minutes and then watched nature documentaries for three hours following the image associations while the second group watched the documentaries first and then exercised. The last group didn’t exercise at all and only watched the documentaries.

Two days after looking at the images, the volunteers were tested on the image associations. The group that exercised around four hours after studying did the best (they scored about 10 per cent better than the other groups), which is bad news for those of you who hate getting sweaty and good news for everyone else.

According to the study, “delayed exercise most likely affected memory retention through an impact on memory consolidation.” This means that although researchers have yet to identify what improved memory after exercising (two chemicals in the brain are likely suspects), there’s a clear connection between delayed exercise and a better memory.

Another study published in the Proceedings of  the Natural Academy of Sciences found that napping after memorizing something also improves your memory by 33 per cent. In the study, 81 volunteers took two Remote Associate tests, which measured their levels of creativity by getting them to write a fourth word that connects three terms together. The volunteers were then split into two groups. Although everyone took the first test and studied clues for a second test after, one group had a nap while the control group watched a video just before the second test. Those who napped actually did significantly better than the control group on the second test.

“What goes on below the neck plays a big role in memory consolidation,” Sara Medick said, the head researcher of the study and the Assistant Professor of Psychology at University of California. “A lot of heart rate variation is healthy for the brain in waking and sleeping.”

So in a few hours, go do some exercise and maybe even take a nap to see if this stays in your brain.

Exercising is good for you.
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