There probably aren’t many people who listen to A Moment of Science or visit this Web site who have not heard that exercise is good for you. Today we discuss a twist that you might not have heard about: the effect of exercise on memory.
Everyone knows that’s exercising is good for your body. But did you know that it is also good for your memory? A study done by Arthur Kramer, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Illinois, shows that people who took a long walk performed better on tests of both memory and judgment than people who didn’t walk.
The volunteers in this study were between sixty and seventy-five, and all of them lived pretty sedentary lives. The walking group was slowly worked up to the point where they were walking for an hour, three times a week.
The walkers outperformed the non-walkers in tests that look for what psychologists call “executive control processes.” Executive control processes include things like making plans, making choices, and the ability to change your mind when it’s warranted. These skills were examined because they are often the first to be impaired by the aging process.
It didn’t literally make them younger, but it seemed to give their brains a boost so that they behaved more effectively. We already knew that exercise, even simple walking, is great for your body, no matter what your age. This evidence suggests it’s also great for your mind.