If you need a good reason to walk, run, hike or participate in aerobic exercises read-on…
There are countless reasons why we love getting outside and going for a run. It boosts our moods, it’s good for our muscles, bones, and joints, and it may even adds years to our lives.
But new research shows that there’s yet another reason lacing up is beneficial: It might even help improve your memory.
The study, which appeared in the journal Psychological Reports, consisted of 24 people ages 18 to 35 who participated in four experimental sessions. For the first, they had to try to memorize as many words as they could from two lists of 15 words while remaining sedentary. For the following three, they walked on a treadmill at a moderate intensity for 15 minutes prior to, during, and after memorizing the lists of words.
After analyzing their performance, the researchers discovered that the participants remembered the words best when they walked beforehand.
So How Exactly Does This Apply to Runners?
According to Paul Loprinzi, Ph.D., director of the University of Mississippi’s Exercise and Memory Laboratory and one of the study’s authors, aerobic exercise of any kind can enhance both short- and long-term memory.
“Most of our experiments occur in a somewhat active population,” Loprinzi told Runner’s World via email. “We have evaluated both moderate-intensity and high-intensity acute exercise, and have found that both are beneficial for episodic memory [where you recall things like experiences, times, places, and emotions].”
There have also been studies that have shown regular exercise may also help reduce your risk of dementia, too, Loprinzi says. In fact, a 2017 study of 7,500 Chinese adults older than 65 found that those who reported regularly engaging in some sort of exercise—whether walking, running, or playing sports—were 47 percent less likely to develop dementia over the nine-year followup than folks who remained more sedentary.
This is because exercise helps neurons connect and communicate with each other, Loprinzi says. “This enhanced communication plays a critical role developing and consolidating memory traces within the brain.”
So the next time you need to study for a test or memorize some talking points for a presentation for work, think about going out for a quick couple of miles beforehand. Your brain will thank you.