We’ve heard over and over how exercise and physical activity in general is good for our brains overall:
- If you only do one thing for your brain, it should be this
- Sports and physical activity boost brain development and academic performance
Recently, we learned that specific physical activities can enhance memory even further, especially when applied under certain conditions…
The right combination of exercise and learning can improve long-term memory
Exercise can improve long-term memory when new words were learned during exercise as opposed to after. The exercise, however, must be of low-intensity because the effects can be negated if the brain becomes over-stimulated from intense physical activity.
In a study by Schmidt-Kassow et al (May, 2013), 105 young women were given new words to learn either after or while they rode an exercise bike. Results demonstrated a boost to long-term memory when the new vocab was learned during exercise, but not if the learning took place afterwards. For the effect to be observed, the exercise had to be light to moderate intensity but not more than that.
Boost working memory with proprioceptive activities
We know that working memory is important:
We also know a variety of ways we can improve working memory:
Now, in a recent study by Alloway & Alloway (June, 2015), researchers have found that proprioceptive activities could improve working memory by as much as 50%:
In this study a training group completed a series of proprioceptively demanding exercises. There were also control classroom and yoga groups. Working memory was measured using a backward digit recall test. The data indicated that active, healthy adults who undertook acute, proprioceptively demanding training improved working memory scores compared to the classroom and yoga groups. One possible reason that the training yielded significant working memory gains could be that the training was proprioceptively dynamic, requiring proprioception and at least one other factor—such as locomotion or navigation—at the same time, which may have contributed to the improvements in working memory performance.
Proprioception is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement. – Wikipedia
Proprioceptive activities stimulate the proprioceptive sense by pushing and pulling the joints in the body. These activities include climbing a tree, balancing on a beam, carrying awkward weights, and navigating around obstacles.