Want to Memorize Something? Exercise 4 Hours Later

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

After a long day of studying, you might want to go home and crash. But when it comes to retaining information, it may be in your brain's best interest to hit the gym instead — but not right away. 

Researchers just discovered a surprising secret to improving your memory: Exercising four hours after learning new information. 

In a recent study published in Current Biology, researchers had 72 participants learn 90 "picture-location associations" — in other words, the location of an image in relation to a series of dots:

Picture-location associations
Source: 
Current Biology

Next, they were split randomly into three groups: One that exercised immediately after the learning exercise, one that exercised four hours later and one that didn't exercise at all. Those who exercised performed 35 minutes of interval training on a stationary bike, at 80% of their maximum heart rate. 

Two days later, researchers tested the participants on how much they remembered, while scanning their brains with MRI. 

The results: Folks who exercised four hours after learning new information performed best on the follow-up memory test, the study found. 

Exercising four hours after learning new information may improve your memory.
Source: 
Scott Webb/StockSnap

Their memory retention was around 10% better than participants who exercised right away or who didn't exercise at all, according to Live Science — not a massive improvement, but an improvement nonetheless.

The explanation: Researchers don't know exactly why delayed exercise improves memory, according to a press release. But they suggested that when we exercise, our bodies release chemicals, including dopamine and noradrenaline, that help with memory consolidation: the process by which our brains store new information — or "memory traces" — after first acquisition.

Now, if only there were a way to remember people's names immediately after they introduce themselves.

Read more: 
The Person With the World's Best Memory Is a Millennial from the US
How to Wake Up Refreshed, No Matter How Much Sleep You Get
Your Busy Schedule Is Probably Good for Your Brain, According to Science

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Jordyn Taylor

Jordyn is an editor on Mic's news desk. She previously worked at the New York Observer, and is a graduate of Hamilton College and New York University. Jordyn is based in New York, and can be reached at jht@mic.com.

MORE FROM

8 of the biggest moments from the 48th NYC LGBT Pride March

The biggest Pride event in the world was a sight to behold.

Movement for Black Lives activists disrupt Minneapolis Pride to protest Philando Castile verdict

Protesters reportedly held signs with messages like "No KKKops at Pride."

Protesters reportedly arrested near NYC's Stonewall Inn, Pride March endpoint

The reason for the arrests were not immediately known.

Marchers arrested in Istanbul as Pride parade continues despite cancellation

The organizers' decision to move forward with the previously cancelled march led to clashes with police.

Car slams into Eid celebrants in UK, injuring 6; police say terrorism isn't suspected

Police say they believe an Eid celebrant was behind the wheel of the car that injured six outside a mosque.

Oil truck explodes in Pakistan, killing at least 153

The deadly fire broke out as residents rushed to collect the leaking oil from the overturned tanker.

8 of the biggest moments from the 48th NYC LGBT Pride March

The biggest Pride event in the world was a sight to behold.

Movement for Black Lives activists disrupt Minneapolis Pride to protest Philando Castile verdict

Protesters reportedly held signs with messages like "No KKKops at Pride."

Protesters reportedly arrested near NYC's Stonewall Inn, Pride March endpoint

The reason for the arrests were not immediately known.

Marchers arrested in Istanbul as Pride parade continues despite cancellation

The organizers' decision to move forward with the previously cancelled march led to clashes with police.

Car slams into Eid celebrants in UK, injuring 6; police say terrorism isn't suspected

Police say they believe an Eid celebrant was behind the wheel of the car that injured six outside a mosque.

Oil truck explodes in Pakistan, killing at least 153

The deadly fire broke out as residents rushed to collect the leaking oil from the overturned tanker.