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How (Gentle) Exercise Helps You Learn

What's the Latest Development?

In an experiment in which individuals were asked to memorize pairs of words, those who engaged in mild exercise while learning the word pairs did significantly better than those who sat quietly or exercised vigorously while learning. In another study, vigorous exercise actually stunted learning when compared to a group of individuals who quietly, studying the same material as those who exercised. "The message of these studies would seem to be that exercise timing and intensity interact to affect memory formation, said Maren Schmidt-Kassow, a professor at the Institute of Medical Psychology at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany."

What's the Big Idea? 

Mild exercise appears to be the most beneficial when it comes to learning material for a future date due to the physiological arousal it provokes. While intense exercise can overstimulate the body and the brain, monopolizing more of the brain’s attentional resources and leaving fewer for the creation of robust memories, mild activity helps to prime the brain for the intake of new information and the encoding of that information into memories. "This theory also helps to explain why, in both studies, memory recall was best a day or two after exercise, by which time, Dr. Schmidt-Kassow said, physiological arousal would have dissipated."

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Read it at the New York Times

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