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Learning Better With Mild Exercise

Exercise Helps You Learn!

exercise and memoryWhile we all know that exercise supports brain health, one study has shown that learning while exercising may be one of the most effective ways to retain and process new information. In the study, 105 young adult female participants were put on stationary bikes and asked to study vocabulary lessons both during and after exercising. Sounds like fun, right?

The researchers found that participants who were ‘encoded’ with the vocabulary lessons while exercising demonstrated much better recall and understanding than those who received the instruction post-exercise.

Intensity Makes A Difference

Does it matter how ‘hard’ you’re working out? The study investigated differing exercise intensity levels and found that participants exercising at a low-intensity demonstrated the best recall and cognition, as opposed to those who exercised at a moderate to high intensity.

What About the Exercise Type?

It is tempting to extrapolate from these findings that a different exercise ‘mode’ at a low intensity—such as walking or using the elliptical—would have been just as effective at ‘encoding’ information as the stationary bike. We can hypothesize that the activity has to be generally ‘straightforward’ (i.e. not requiring much focussed attention) for it to be an effective learning device; it seems unlikely that most people could successfully encode a vocabulary lesson while practicing yoga or playing badminton, even at a ‘low’ intensity. If there’s a study out there that investigates this question, I have yet to find it!

Learning After Exercise

What if you work out before studying? The research seems to be divided as to the most effective intensity for encoding new information post-exercise; some studies suggest that while the brain’s processing speed is increased post-high intensity training, executive function and accuracy is unaffected or even diminished. Perhaps this also has something to do with the elevation of ‘feel good’ hormones–including confidence–post-exercise.

Long-term Results

Consistently exercising has been shown to improve cognitive performance in the long-term and slow down the brain’s aging, and may even delay the onset of neurological symptoms related to Alzheimer’s. You can read more about the relationship between exercise and Alzheimer’s here!

Want To Lean More?

How do you know that you’re working at the correct intensity to gain the best ‘brain benefits’? A personal trainer can help to identify the intensity and exercise type ideal for you. And if you’re interested in learning more and helping others to achieve all of the numerous benefits of exercise, consider becoming a certified personal trainer or fitness coach! Infofit offers dozens of programs–including both online courses and in-person training–to support you on your career as a fitness professional.

Wishing you all the best on your journey to optimum health!

Works Cited

Chang, Y., & Etnier, J. L. (2009). Exploring the dose-response relationship between resistance exercise intensity and cognitive function. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 31(5), 640-656. doi:10.1123/jsep.31.5.640

Dao, A. T., Zagaar, M. A., Levine, A. T., Salim, S., Eriksen, J. L., & Alkadhi, K. A. (2013). Treadmill exercise prevents learning and memory impairment in alzheimer’s disease-like pathology. Current Alzheimer Research, 10(5), 507-515. doi:10.2174/1567205011310050006

Schmidt-Kassow, M., Deusser, M., Thiel, C., Otterbein, S., Montag, C., Reuter, M., . . . Kaiser, J. (2013). Physical exercise during encoding improves vocabulary learning in young female adults: A neuroendocrinological study. PLoS ONE, 8(5). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064172

Van Praag, H. (2005). Exercise enhances learning and hippocampal neurogenesis in aged mice. Journal of Neuroscience,25(38), 8680-8685. doi:10.1523/jneurosci.1731-05.2005

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