Does working out after studying help retain the information?


| 2 Comments
I've always wondered whether or not doing physical activity, such as going to the gym or playing sports, after studying is helpful or not. I know people always say it's important to take breaks from studying, make sure you're well rested but does working out after studying help us hold the information better?

Apparently, exercise is indeed very helpful to our brain. Exercise improves both the structure and the function of the brain. There have been several experiments done proving that, even a couple months of basic exercise can help build new neurons, lift mood, improve our memory and thinking. One study done in Brazil tested whether or not our brain reverts to it's normal state if it begins to exercise then stops. In order to test this, the scientists studied rats. Half of the adult rats were put on running wheels for a week (control group). During this week, they were also injected with a substance designed to build new neurons in the hippocampus (the hippocampus is the part of the brain involved with memory). The scientists already knew that inactive animals are capable of creating new cells, but they were strictly trying to determine whether or not the activity sparked the "Creation of two or three times as many new hippocampal neurons."

The second control group, or the inactive rats were also being tested for new growth during the week of data collection. After the week of group 1 running and group 2 remaining inactive... group 1 was halted from activity. After another week passed, leaving both groups inactive, the scientists had the rats perform memory tests. Confirming the hypothesis, the rats who had done a weeks worth of activity did better on the memory test and also had twice as many new neurons in the hippcampus. However, after more time passed the advantages began to fade.

Based off this article, it is safe to say that it is important for us humans to keep a steady and regular workout. If we have a good pattern that we keep up with, it is likely that our brains will be more active and retain more memory than if we had remained lazy couch potatoes. For example, if one begins to exercise at the beginning of the semester in order to retain and memorize the essential information for exam #1; but stops after the first exam, studies show that the chances are that they won't remember exam1 information as heavily on the final cumulative exam. Since they stopped exercising after exam 1, the benefits that they once had faded after several weeks of no activity. The authors of the experiment said themselves that, "the exercise-induced benefits may be transient. '" Meaning the benefits may only last a short period of time. If one wants full fledged brain stimulation they're better off working out daily, even if it's just moderate, but some type of steady routine will be the most beneficial for us human beings!

hippocampus.gif

Another benefit from exercise that this article points out is that the rats who had the privilege of exercising, used their Serotonin more efficiently. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter associated with anxiety and mood. The scientists observed that the well exercised rats, after several months, were able to remain calmer during behavioral testing and were, as a whole, less anxious. Once the active rats were removed from their cages, these advantages, yet again, faded. This study was based only off rats but according to Gilberto Xavier, it is also applicable to humans. He explains that, "'though our observations are restricted to rats, indirect evidence suggests that the same phenomenon occurs in human beings.'"

I never really understood why my roommate had to eat healthy and go to the gym in order to feel calm and stress free. However, with all this being said, it's beginning to make sense. If I excercise I will feel calmer overall, upon studing for exams. And hopefully, my memory will be stronger since I will have built up more neurons in my hippocampus, earning the best possible grade!

graphic_brain-exercises-as-activities-for-seniors.jpg
Sources:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/to-keep-the-brain-benefits-of-exercise-keep-exercising/

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/studenthealth/Pages/Exerciseandstudy.aspx

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/transient




2 Comments

I find this subject very interesting as well. However, I do not think there is enough evidence to say that exercising makes you retain the information better. I think that it would be very difficult to design a proper experiment for humans in order to further our examination of the subject. Separating humans into active and inactive groups is very unethical and it would have to be done via an observational study. Additionally, I find the confounding variables of this issue very possible. In your post, you discuss the fact that exercising helps people with their mood by increasing serotonin levels. If you think about it, people will study harder and more effectively if they enjoy the subject matter and are in a good mood while doing so. In an article on http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20974709, good mood increases activity levels of the brain that are associated with cognitive development. So in essence, the mood will allow for better processing of information.

I think you make a very interesting point stating exercising and calmness are related to one another, when most people would disagree! If you're straining your muscles and breaking a sweat, what's de-stressing about that?! I find it to be one of the best drug-free anxiety relievers out there, just because of the fact a little bit of exercise can take your mind off everything else for that bit of time. You feel better releasing those endorphins, but I had no idea you could retain information better working out post-study session. Students who have their priorities straight and succeed in time management skills obviously find time to study and work out as busy as they are, and I believe that fact ties into the whole study. Just like they say early birds get better grades, I don't think it's just because they're up at earlier hours. Kids who wake up before others have a set schedule to maintain and accomplish, and that is why they get done with everything they need to. Here's another article relating to what you were talking about that I found quite intriguing as well: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/03/vigorous-exercise-linked-with-better-grades/?_r=0

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