Going to the gym can get your brain muscles flexing just as much as your biceps.
Slogging away on a treadmill, taking part in a spinning class or lifting weights is a sure fire way to get your body looking its best, but did you know it also gives your brain a workout too? New research has highlighted how beneficial exercise is when it comes memory.
A team of experts from the Netherlands' Radboud University Medical Centre looked a group of 72 people who were tasked with learning 90 picture-location associations in 40 minutes. The participants were split into three subgroups, one of which exercised immediately, the next after four hours and the last not taking part in fitness at all. The two fitness groups spent 35 minutes on an exercise bike.
The participants undertook brain scans two days later to see how much they could recall. It was found the group who exercised four hours after learning the information retained it the best, with results being published in the Cell Press journal, Current Biology.
"Persistent long-term memory depends on successful stabilisation and integration of new memories after initial encoding," explained Professor Guillén Fernández from the Medical Centre.
"This consolidation process is thought to require factors such as dopamine, noradrenaline, and brain derived neurotrophic factor. Without the release of such factors around the time of encoding, memories will decay rapidly."
It's not yet known why a delay in exercise can improve memory, though it's been shown before that feel good chemical dopamine and norepinephrine, released during exercise, can improve memory.
"Recent studies have shown that physical exercise acutely stimulates the release of several consolidation promoting factors in humans, raising the question of whether physical exercise can be used to improve memory retention," Professor Fernández continued.
"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 team is now planning to carry out further studies into the affects of exercise on the brain.