It’s undeniable that regularly participating in sports does your body good. But what about your brain? A study stemming from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) revealed that as little as intense 15-minute physical fitness sessions on a bicycle can help with memory, as well as acquiring new motor skills.
Raise your hand if you feel physically and psychologically well after exercise, especially one like cycling or running. This feeling is all thanks to small molecules your body produces during this time called endocannabinoids. They travel through the blood and can easily cross an individual’s blood-brain carrier. They latch on to specialized cellular receptors and launch a feeling of euphoria. They also link to receptors in the brain structure’s main region that deals with memory processing.
The study out of UNIGE aimed to connect the specific link between memory and sports.
As such, the team gathered 15 healthy and young males, not athletes, to participate in a memory test. There were three different levels of physical exercise-associated, which included 20 minutes of moderate cycling, 15 minutes of intense activity, and then some rest.
During all this, a screen would show four points next to each other. Whenever it would briefly form into a star, each participant was required to press a button as fast as they could. It followed a repeated and predefined sequence to help evaluate how movements are learned. After an intense sporting session, the performance numbers around this evaluation were better.
In past research, the team had already revealed the positive impact sport has when it comes to another type of memory, which was associative memory. With that said, this study revealed that moderate-intensity sporting sessions offered better results. Therefore, as not all types of memory require the same brain mechanisms, and not all levels of sports intensities offer up the same results. Still, in all cases, physical fitness did enhance memory far more than inactivity.
These studies can certainly help when it comes to strategies for life, and around school and learning. Would children benefit if educators implemented a sports or fitness activity close to the end of a school day morning to help enhance learning and consolidate memory? Most likely. Plus, sports activity can be implemented rather easily, with inexpensive intervention and that is minimally invasive.