Over the past decade, in study after study in animals and people,
exercise has been shown to improve the ability to learn and remember.
But the specifics of that process have remained hazy. Is it better to
exercise before you learn something new? What about during? And should
the exercise be vigorous or gentle?
Two new studies helpfully tackle those questions, with each reaching
the conclusion that the timing and intensity of even a single bout of
exercise can definitely affect your ability to remember — though not
To reach that conclusion, scientists conducting the larger and more ambitious of the new studies, published in May in PLoS One, first recruited 81 healthy young women who were native German speakers
and randomly divided them into three groups. Each group wore headphones
and listened for 30 minutes to lists of paired words, one a common
German noun and the other its Polish equivalent. The women were asked to
memorize the unfamiliar word.
But they heard the words under quite different circumstances. One
group listened after sitting quietly for 30 minutes. A second group rode
a stationary bicycle at a gentle pace for 30 minutes and then sat down
and donned the headphones. And the third group rode a bicycle at a mild
intensity for 30 minutes while wearing the headphones and listening to
the new words.