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by Ryan Halvorson on Oct 13, 2017
Do you have something important to remember? Study it first, and then take a short, light jog around the block. Science suggests that a memory will stick more easily if it’s followed up by a quick workout—if you’re a woman.
This finding, published in Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications (2017; , 33), stems from four separate interventions involving 256 participants. In the first study, 74 undergraduate students were asked to study names and faces. Half of the participants completed a 5-minute bout of step exercise before the test, while the rest sat quietly. All of them underwent the same name–face recognition test the next day to determine recall. The procedure was repeated; however, this time the participants exercised after the test. They were again retested 24 hours later.
Memory recall improved significantly in female students when they exercised after the test but not when they exercised beforehand. Male students saw no improvement with either intervention.
The three other experiments were similar to the first; however, certain variables were changed. In the second study, memory tests were given the same day as the intervention. In the third study, the learning phase and memory tests included abstract objects instead of faces. The fourth study was very much like the first, but control participants tapped their fingers on a table for 5 minutes instead of sitting quietly.
“Across four experiments, participants who engaged in 5 minutes of low-impact exercise immediately after learning showed better recall for paired associations,” the authors observed. “This effect was consistently observable only among female participants for reasons that are not yet clear. Results also suggested that the memorial benefits of exercise-induced arousal reflect post-learning processes such as consolidation, as equivalent exercise prior to learning yielded no such benefits, although it may be that more variables must be measured in order to draw firm conclusions about the temporal relationship between memory and acute exercise.”
To minimize their future immobility risk, older adults should cut television time and boost activity levels, says new research.
Scientists looked at data on 134,269 subjects aged 50–71 from six states over 8 years. The data included self-reported total sitting time, television viewing time and physical activity intensity, as well as health histories. At follow-up, study participants provided information on walking pace and mobility, indicating whether they were “unable to walk” or could keep up an “easy walking pace.”
Twenty-nine percent of participants reported having a disability at follow-up. Women with lower education levels who reported poor health at baseline and smoked were the most likely to be disabled at follow-up. Television watching in particular was a strong predictor of future mobility issues.
“Participants reporting 3–4 [hours per day] of TV viewing experienced . . . 25% higher odds of mobility disability compared with those reporting ≤2 hours per day, whereas those people reporting ≥5 hours per day had . . . 65% higher odds,” the authors said.
As the amount and intensity of physical activity increased, immobility risks diminished, regardless of total sitting time, but the authors cautioned that television time remained a significant risk and should be minimized.
“Greater TV time was significantly related to increased disability within all levels of physical activity,” the authors conclude. “Our findings and those of others indicate that reductions in sedentary time, as well as increases in physical activity, are necessary to maintain health and function in older age—particularly among those who are the least active.”
The study was published in The Journals of Gerontology (2017; https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glx122).
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