With college back in session, for many students life has become a balancing act. When students are looking at what they can fit in to their busy schedules sometimes the most important things fall by the wayside. We’ve all heard the myths and stories about the dreaded Freshman 15. Too often, however, students give up taking the time to exercise in favor of other activities. Exercise can also get ignored during midterms and finals when all focus is on studying.
Scientists in two separate studies may have found a way for students to not only fit in the exercise they need to stay healthy, but also remember what they study better. Their new research supports the claim that studying while moderately exercising may help individuals retain information better. Looks like the people bringing textbooks and notes with them to the gym were on the right track after all.
The studies support the idea that exercising can help students retain material better than if they studied while just sitting at a desk. It was found that timing and intensity of the exercise have a major impact on the effectiveness of physical activity while studying. Vigorous exercise caused a detrimental effect on memory when the participants were tested on material they had read while active immediately after that activity stopped. They also remembered the material at the same level as those who studied while sitting still when both groups were tested the next day.
What seemed to have a positive impact on memory was studying while doing light-intensity exercise. Participants rode a stationary bike at a low level while reading, and were found to remember what they had learned better when tested two days later than those who sat quietly and those who studied after exercising. Those two groups remembered the information they studied at about the same level.
Exercise is a healthy activity for students who want to take a break and relieve the stress of studying for a big test. What may be more beneficial, however, is reading a couple chapters or going over flashcards while walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike on an easier level. Not will the chance that the material will be remembered later be increased, but students then have the opportunity to fit exercise into their busy schedules.