Whether you are cramming for an exam or simply want to give your memory a boost, doing some physical exercise straight after a learning session may be of great help – if you are a woman, that is. A little cardio exercise, such as jogging, straight after a learning session may boost memory in young women. A new study published in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications shows that just 5 minutes of light physical exercise following a learning session improves memory in young women. The study’s first author is Most, of the School of Psychology at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He and his team conducted four experiments that included a total of 256 participants. In the first experiment, 74 undergraduate students – 38 women and 36 men aged 19.9 years, on average, were divided into two groups. One group engaged in 5 minutes of low-impact cardio exercise such as step exercise before a learning phase that involved remembering name-face pairs, while the other group engaged in another, non-exercise activity.
After 24 hours, the researchers tested the participants’ memory of their previous learning phase. The same conditions were repeated but with 5 minutes of activity after the learning phase. In the second experiment, Most and team wanted to see if the “post-learning” exercise benefits noticed in the first experiment would be replicated if they eliminated sleep as a possible consolidation phase. The memory test was therefore administered on the same day as the learning phase. The researchers also altered the non-exercise activity. In the third experiment, the researchers replaced the face-name association task with one that involved abstract shapes. The reason for this was that some studies have previously suggested that emotional material such as face stimuli may be more easily remembered than neutral material.