The researchers tested 75 college students during a two-day period and found those who were less fit had a harder time retaining information.
“The findings show that lower-fit individuals lose more memory across time,” said Dr. Kimberly Fenn, study co-author and an assistant professor of psychology.
She noted the study is one of the first to investigate young, supposedly healthy adults. Previous research on fitness and memory has focused largely on children, whose brains are still developing, and the elderly, whose memories are declining, she explained.
For the latest study, the students were asked to study related word pairs such as “camp” and “trail.” The next day, they were tested on the word pairs to evaluate long-term memory retention. Long-term memory is anything remembered more than about 30 seconds ago, according to the researchers.
Aerobic fitness was gauged by oxygen consumption during a treadmill test and factored with the participants’ weight, percentage of body fat, age, and sex.
The findings speak to the increasingly sedentary lifestyles found in the United States and other Western cultures, the researchers noted.
“A surprising number of the college students in the study were significantly out of shape and did much worse at retaining information than those who were extremely fit,” Fenn added.
The study was published in the research journal Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience.
Source: Michigan State University