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Axios Finish Line: Exercise can boost memory


Illustration of a brain wearing a sweatband.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

This article originally appeared in Axios Finish Line, our nightly newsletter on life, leadership and wellness. Sign up here.

There’s a link between how much you exercise and how well you can recall things.

  • Why it matters: We know moving our bodies can be good for our minds, but a new study, published in Scientific Reports, demonstrates that different forms of exercise can benefit different aspects of brain function, such as memory.

🖼️ Zoom out: Researchers collected a year’s worth of Fitbit physical activity data from study participants and then gave them memory tests.

  • They found that those who were more active were better at remembering where things were, details from stories and words from foreign languages.

💡 Between the lines: The study authors came upon another fascinating discovery.

  • Just as different types of exercise affect our bodies distinctly — think about how long distance running can strengthen your heart and legs, while bicep curls beef up your arms — they can also affect our brains in different ways.

🧠 Chew on this: People who’d just wrapped up a rigorous workout, such as high-intensity interval training, were particularly good at “spatial learning,” or recalling where something was. And people who’d done a lower-intensity workout, such as a walk, were good at “naturalistic recall,” or remembering details of a story.

Next time you can’t find your keys, do a fast-paced round of jumping jacks. And if you can’t remember what your friend told you yesterday, maybe go for a walk. Hey, it’s worth a try!



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