Whether you're memorizing your biz pitch or have just learned 25 new names at a networking event, remembering it all is hard. It's become especially difficult as we sink deeper into the multitasking hole, which severely reduces our ability to focus.
There are already a couple of science-backed recommendations to help boost your brain's ability to recall information. Sleep is one. Drawing your notes is another. And now there's a new study published in Current Biology that reps another good-for-your-body activity that's also good for your mind. It's exercise.
But not exercise immediately after that pitch practice session or networking event. The study found that performing aerobic exercise four hours later improved associative memory. Translation? Take a break after you've absorbed new information, then exercise in a few hours to improve your ability to recall what you learned.
The study was led by Eelco V. van Dongen, PhD, of Radboud University in the Netherlands. His team of researchers gave 72 volunteers a set of picture-location associations. A third of the group exercised immediately after, a third exercised four hours later, and the last group did not exercise at all. The participants returned two days later for a memory test in an MRI. Those who exercised immediately after or did not exercise at all performed similarly. The participants who exercised four hours after the picture-location activity recalled the most.
As with most studies, it's easy to cherry-pick the data. Must you exercise within exactly four hours on the dot? Not necessarily. Hat tip to Stat for not only sharing this study but also reading between the lines in interpreting the results. Since the study only looked at two points in time--immediately after learning and four hours later--the results doesn't necessarily reveal an exact time.
"We still don't know what the ideal time is," Rosanna Olsen, a memory scientist at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto told Stat. (She wasn't one of the researchers.) "Maybe it's after only two hours of delay. Maybe they missed the sweet spot."