The findings showed that students who exercised four hours after learning retained the information for two days in comparison to those who exercised either immediately or not at all.
Exercise after the stipulated time was associated with more precise representations in the hippocampus – a brain region important for learning and memory.
“It shows that we can improve memory consolidation and long term memory by doing sports after learning,” said Guillen Fernandez from Radboud University in the Netherlands. “The study suggests that appropriately timed physical exercise can improve long-term memory and highlights the potential of exercise as an intervention in educational and clinical settings,” Fernandez noted.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, involved 72 students, who were made to learn 90 picture-location associations for 40 minutes.
After that, they were randomly assigned to one of three groups: first group performed the exercise immediately after learning. The second group performed the exercise four hours later and the third did not perform any exercise.
The exercise consisted of 35 minutes of interval training on an exercise bike at an intensity of up to 80 per cent of participants’ maximum heart rates.