Students usually need to study hours to prepare for final exams. However, it can be hard to remember all the information.
In a study newly published in Cognitive Systems Research, researchers find that going for a run after revision can improve students’ memory about the learnt information.
The University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria conducted the study. Researchers asked 60 men aged 16-29 to memorize a range of information, from learning a route on a city map to memorizing German-Turkish word pairs.
The participants were then split into three groups: one group played a violent computer game, one group went for a run, and one group spent time outside. The researchers compared how well the people in each group remembered the information they were given.
The results showed that the runners performed best, remembering more after the run than before. Those in the outside group performed slightly worse, and the memories of people who played the game were significantly impaired.
The finding demonstrates that playing a video game is not helpful for improving learning effects. However, moderate exercise after a learning cycle can help remember the learnt knowledge.
Researchers suggest that maybe the physical stress of running switches the brain into “memory storage mode” where it retains the information the student wants to remember.
During moderate exercise like running, the body produces more cortisol (a stress hormone) to keep the body’s systems in balance while it’s under physical stress. It’s this cortisol that could help improve memory.
Future research will examine the link between cortisol levels and memory retention, especially the long-term memory retention.
Citation: Kindermann H, et al. (2016). Playing counter-strikes versus running: The impact of leisure time activities and cortisol on intermediate-term memory in male students. Cognitive Systems Research, published online. DOI:10.1016/j.cogsys.2016.01.002.
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