Movement Helps You Learn

DSC_4713-150x150Just the other day, I remembered a “technique” I had in my first year of medical school. In order to memorize long lists of information, I would make myself flash cards and test myself on long walks. (Yup, I was the strange girl walking down the street with flashcards…) I don’t know when I first had this idea, but I’m guessing that I was just so tired of sitting on my butt, I gave up on the traditional sitting at my desk routine and took to the streets. Surprisingly, (or not so surprisingly according to current research), it actually worked. I was able to memorize the facts faster, and they consolidated into my long-term memory, so I could do well on tests.

Researches at the University of Copenhagen are looking at this very phenomenon: Can you improve your body’s ability to remember by making it move? Many studies have actually looked at the effect of exercise on memory and have shown that regular exercise does improve the brain’s ability to remember. What’s different about this study is that it demonstrates that physical memories are developed and consolidated with movement.

The research shows that doing some kind of exercise after a physical kind of memory (any activity in which you are doing something) makes a deeper imprint than without exercise.

We all know the term muscle memory. Well, this research shows that muscle memory is real. Our muscles don’t actually remember, but a pathway is struck between our brain and our muscles. This research shows us that if we exercise after doing something or experiencing something, we’ll remember it better. This is bigger than how we talk about muscle memory typically.  In general, we talk about muscle memory with the classic example of riding a bike (and how once you learn how to ride a bike, you’ll never forget…you just need to get back on it to remember).

Well, what if, you were doing some activity that was really important to you that you learn it well? I mean, how often are we concerned we won’t remember how to ride a bike? What if you were in the process of learning to make your business work better, or how to communicate with your spouse or child better, or learning a new computer program?

Research shows that if you do some kind of movement after the activity, you’ll remember what you learned better and for longer.

So…how motivating is it to take walks during your lunch break now? Would your morning work become consolidated in your brain so much faster because of the movement? Research is showing that yes, this is true. We don’t only benefit our bodies by incorporating movement into our daily live – we also benefit our minds.

Who knows, we might even become more and more brilliant by paying attention to our bodies and moving them a bit everyday.

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