Physical Exercise Could Aid Pharmacy Student Learning

If pharmacy students are worried about passing their next pharmacy exam, they may want to consider doing some exercise 4 hours after their time spent in the library.

If pharmacy students are worried about passing their next pharmacy exam, they may want to consider doing some exercise 4 hours after their time spent in the library.

Exercise not only leads to a healthy lifestyle, it can also improve memory, and in turn, test scores. A new study published in Current Biology suggests hitting the gym after a long day of studying can drastically boost memory consolidation if done within a specific time frame after learning new material.

The researchers examined 72 participants who were divided randomly into 3 groups. Each group was exposed to 90 picture-location associations over a 40-minute period. The first group then performed exercise immediately after the learning process. The next group delayed the exercise period by 4 hours. The final group did not perform any exercise.

Both immediate and delayed exercise groups followed identical workouts; they performed a 35-minute interval training on a stationary exercise bike, reaching up to 80% of their maximum heart rate.

Participants were brought back to the lab 48 hours after their initial performance to test how much information they had retained and whether its effects were time-dependent. They performed a second recall test, while their brains underwent an MRI.

The researchers compared the retention rate between the exercise groups and found those who waited 4 hours to exercise after their learning session were able to commit to memory much more information than those who exercised immediately after or not at all. They found no difference between the immediate and no exercise groups.

The MRI also revealed that exercise and time delay were closely related with heightened responses in the hippocampus, a vital area in the brain associated with learning and memory. This proved especially true when an individual answered a question correctly.

According to the study, this finding could imply that the hippocampus is particularly sensitive to the effects of exercise and thus important in bringing forth its cognitive benefits.

Researchers determined that together, these results indicated that delaying exercise 4 hours after learning new material successfully promoted the retention of associative memory.

"Our results suggest that appropriately timed physical exercise can improve long-term memory and highlight the potential of exercise as an intervention in educational and clinical settings," the researchers said in a press release.

However, researchers are still not certain how exercise directly improves memory consolidation or the exact time window in which delayed exercise is most effective.