Another study is touting the positive impact that physical fitness has on the brain and cognitive function. In this case, 9- and 10-year-old kids who participated in regular exercise receieved a significant boost to their memory abilities.
“Memory is a broad term that encompasses a varied set of processes, which reflect the capacity of an organism to benefit and learn from their past experiences, and consists of procedural, semantic, and episodic systems,” wrote the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign team.
“However, our understanding of which aspects of cognition are modifiable through fitness is in its infancy, as only a few aspects of memory have been studied.”
This investigation found that physical fitness improved memory skills, especially in extremely challenging mental exercises.
Led by kinesiologist Dr. Charles Hillman, the researchers recruited 49 elementary students and asked them to memorize a map on an iPad with fictional countries. Half of the students were in the top 30 percentile in terms of fitness, while the other half were in the lower third, as based on body oxygen consumption during a treadmill test.
The kids were given two ways to learn the map. One session involved simply studying the map. The other had the children study the map, but then they were given quizzes to solidify what they had learned. Both groups returned to the research facility the next day and were asked to recall the map.
Trying to remember something without a test is typically thought of as much more difficult, but this is the aspect of memory that was most improved by aerobic exercise. Kids with high fitness levels scored nearly 20 percent higher on recall exams in the study-only groups. In contrast, children who studied and took tests on day one had the same levels of memory recall.
The findings argue that physical fitness, which has been touted as great way for seniors to retain their memory, is great early in life. This pediatric benefit has been observed in prior work, but scientists are still uncovering the intimate details.
“The findings described herein suggest two important factors, initial learning strategy and fitness, for improving learning in children who may struggle with certain subject matters or require additional educational assistance,” concluded the authors. "Future research should focus on the manner in which these factors impact the neural processes of children during learning."
Source: Raine LB, Lee HK, Saliba BJ, Chaddock-Heyman LH, Hillman CH, Kramer AF. The Influence of Childhood Aerobic Fitness on Learning and Memory. PLoS One. 2013.