New study shows timing of exercise linked to improved learning

Leading occupational health providers Medigold were interested to read about a recent Dutch study on exercise which plays such a crucial role in maintaining workplace health.

The BBC ( 17 June 2016*) reported that the findings indicated that intensive physical exercise, if taken four hours after learning,  is key to remembering information learnt.

Exercise is known to release proteins that can boost the part of the brain related to memory, and this recent study also suggests the timing of it is crucial.

The Study

The study, published in Current Biology, tested 72 people on their memory recall and found that excercising a few hours after learning was more effective than immediately afterwards.

After spending 40 minutes on a learning task, the 72 people were split into groups:

  1. one group exercised straight away
  2. the second group performed exercise fours hours later
  3. the third did not do any exercise

The activity consisted of 35 minutes’ vigorous exercise on an exercise bike.

How Brain patterns are affected

When they were all tested on how much they had remembered two days later, the second group performed best.

Brain images using MRI showed the second group’s activity patterns were sharper in the hippocampus – which is connected to learning and memory.

Why the link?

It is thought the chemical compounds produced in the body by physical exercise, including dopamine and norepinephrine, can help to improve memory.

Guillen Fernandez, lead researcher, from the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, in the Netherlands, said: “Our results suggest that appropriately timed physical exercise can improve long-term memory and highlight the potential of exercise as an intervention in education and clinical settings.”

He added that exercise was particularly effective for consolidating weak memory, but it was not clear why delayed exercise had a positive effect on long-term memory.

The research team will now study the timing of exercise and its influence on learning and memory.

Exercise routines crucial to workplace health

Evidence suggests that sedentary behaviour is strongly associated with poor health, regardless of our exercise levels. In 2014, Public Health England warned that one in six deaths could be traced to inactivity. Its chief medical officer recommended two-and-a-half hours of moderate activity a week.

As well as taking its toll on individuals’ health, inactivity can have a detrimental impact on businesses so business owners should be doing all they can to keep employees healthy and active.  Medigold Health have a proven track record in doing just that. Contact their team for more information about their full range of occupational health services.


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