5 Minutes with Meg: Memory Edition
Katelyn Sander

5 Minutes with Meg: Memory Edition

I’ve been thinking a lot about…
…memory.

Remembrance Day may encourage each of us to remember different things:

  • That numerous Canadians have performed selfless acts of bravery with the goal of making our country and the world a better place
  • That a poppy can represent hope in times of despair
  • That sometimes nature is able to persevere in the face of humanity’s propensity to engage in destructive behaviours

Memory is a powerful force that can help us stay grateful. Memories allow us to learn from our mistakes. People who can draw on their memories and selectively share them can be wise, powerful mentors and educators. Memories bond us to the people we have known for a long time, and serve as powerful connectors to the people we have just met. Memories will make us laugh out loud and cry. They are part of who we are.

Not being able to remember something can be frustrating. Not being able to remember many things can be devastating.

It’s important to cherish our memories and, just as importantly, protect our ability to remember.

Exercise has a profoundly positive impact on memory. (PS: This is true for EVERY age)

Perhaps you already knew this. But I might be able to either share or remind you of a few interesting things.

While still being rigorously explored, there is a wealth of evidence to show that exercise – both acute and chronic – improve memory. 

In support of acute exercise, the ability to retain information is enhanced if you engage in exercise just prior to information gathering. This is so helpful to students, those of us preparing information for presentations...

This benefit is in part due to enhanced blood flow, as well as excitability and connectivity of cells and regions in your brain.  

The benefits hold true for numerous types of activity – from strength training to aerobic activity – though there is evidence to suggest that higher intensities, and shorter durations have a stronger impact.

For those who exercise regularly, the benefits have been amassing and will continue to do so. Regular exercise boosts both your short- and long-term memory, as well as your ability to communicate and effectively utilize those memories.  

The benefits seem to take hold once a person has been exercising regularly for over 6 months, with the largest benefits occurring with a relatively high volume: exercising at least 4 days of the week and accruing at least 150 minutes of activity in a week. 

Again, numerous activities from Tai Chi to walking to powerlifting seem to support the following mechanisms:

  • Reductions in inflammation and increased blood flow to the brain
  • Stimulation of factors that encourage the growth of new blood vessels in the brain
  • Stimulation of chemicals that support the proliferation, as well as health and survival of, brain cells
  • Increased overall volume of specific regions in the brain

Exercise – both acute and chronic – also boost memory in an indirect manner by moderating our perception of and reaction to stress. But that’s a topic in and of itself.

For today: Remember to be grateful. And don’t forget to exercise.

---

Meg Sharp, MSc., B.Ed.Kin, FST, Executive Director of Personal Training, Cambridge Group of Clubs
msharp@cambridgegrourpofclubs.com

References:

Loprinzi P.D. et al., (2019). The temporal effects of acute exercise on episodic memory function: Systematic review with meta-analysis. Brain Science9(4).

Loprinzi P.D. et al., (2018). The effects of exercise I memory function among young to middle-aged adults: Systematic review and recommendations for future research. Am J Health Promot32(3), 691-704.

Pesce C., et al., (2009). Physical activity and mental performance in preadolescents: Effects of acute exercise on free-recall memory. Mental Health & Physical Activity2, 16-22.

Stroth S. et al., (2009). Aerobic endurance exercise benefits memory and affect in young adults. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 19(2), 223-243.

Van der Borght, K. et al., (2007). Exercise improves memory acquisition and retrieval in the Y-Maze Task: Relationship with Hippocampal Neurogenesis. Behavioral Neuroscience121(2), 324-334.

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