Exercising just after learning something new may help students - especially girls - retain the information they learn in school, a study has found. In four experiments, 265 participants performed either five minutes of low-impact step aerobics after learning, or no exercise after learning.
Although the strength of the effect varied between experiments, researchers found that women who did step exercise after learning remembered the material better than those who did not do the exercise. The findings, published in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, add to accumulating evidence that bouts of exercise after study can lead to measurable improvements in memory.
"The effect came into play only after participants had studied the material, meaning that it retroactively boosted learning of the material," said Steven Most from University of New South Wales in Australia. "But mysteriously, this effect did not emerge among men in any of the experiments," said Most.
"It is unclear whether this is a true sex difference or whether there was something about the experiment conditions that allowed the effect to emerge among women and not men," he said. In three out of the four experiments, participants learned to pair male names with male faces. In the test, they were presented with the faces again and had to recall the name that was paired with it.
The findings should encourage schools and even nursing homes, where memory is a central concern, to consider adopting exercise routines to assist recall, researchers said.