A new study says that a student’s choice of activity after a period of learning, such as cramming for an exam, has a direct effect on their ability to remember information.
The researchers behind the new study, from the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, says students should do moderate exercise, like running, rather than taking part in a passive activity such as playing computer games if they want to make sure they remember what they learned.
“I had kids in an age where computer games started to be of high interest,” said lead author Harald Kindermann.
“I wanted to find out how this and hence the increasing lack of exercise in the fresh air- impacts their ability to memorize facts for school,” Kindermann added.
“Our data demonstrates that playing a video game is not helpful for improving learning effects,” Kindermann added. “Instead it is advisable for youngsters and most probably for adults too, to do moderate exercise after a learning cycle.”
The stress hormone cortisol is known to have an impact on our memory retention in some circumstances, it helps us remember things, and in others, it impairs our memory. During moderate exercise like running, the body produces more cortisol to keep the body’s systems in balance while it’s under physical stress. It’s this cortisol that could help improve memory. However, the link between cortisol levels and memory retention is uncertain, so further research is needed.
The study has been published in Cognitive Systems Research.