Regular exercise boosts brain health, and a fit brain is generally able to learn, think and remember better. But a few recent studies offer an additional exercise-related tip: time your workouts for just after a study session, and you might better retain the information you just learned. In a variety of experiments, people who biked, did leg presses or even simply squeezed a handgrip shortly after or before learning did better on tests of recall in the hours, days or weeks that followed.
Experts think the crucial component is physical arousal. Exercise excites the body in much the same way an emotional experience does—and emotional memories are well known to be the most long lasting. The researchers caution, however, that at most exercise can have a supportive effect—the important thing is to study well first.
More Quick Tips for Creativity and Focus
• Lie down to spark insight.
One study showed that people who lay on their back solved anagrams significantly faster than those who stood.
• Dress for the occasion.
In one study, people who wore a white lab coat displayed enhanced focus.
• Smile when sad to enhance creativity.
People who exhibited contradictory mental and physical states—they thought of a sad memory while smiling or listened to happy music while frowning—were better able to think outside the box. —Victoria Stern