FEB 08, 2024 3:00 PM PST

Physical Activity Improves Motor Learning

WRITTEN BY: Savannah Logan

Recent research published in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory has shown that elevating one’s heart rate through physical activity leads to improved motor learning when the exercise is done before and/or after practicing the activity.

The study included 64 male participants who were 18–35 years old. The participants were divided into four groups, all of which completed a test of motor skills in the form of a computer game. The first group performed moderate exercise on a bicycle, then completed the test, then rested. The second group completed the test, then participated in high-intensity exercise after the test. The third group completed both moderate-intensity exercise before the test and high-intensity exercise after the test. The third group rested before and after the test as a control group. The goal of the study was to see how exercise affects motor learning. Interestingly, professional musicians and gamers were excluded from the study since they have extensive experience learning motor skills and may have skewed the results.

The results showed that performing exercise either before or after learning a new motor skill led to better retention of the skill. Those who exercised either before or after the computerized test had around a 10% increase in their ability to remember the skill compared to those who did not exercise. Participants who exercised both before and after learning the skill had even greater retention.

The authors noted that incorporating exercise at any point around learning a new motor skill will be beneficial for retention. Part of the reason for this may be that exercise increases the brain’s ability to change, which is an important part of memory. These results may be particularly helpful for people who are going through rehabilitation or who are trying to recovery lost motor skills.

Sources: Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Science Daily

About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Savannah (she/her) is a scientific writer specializing in cardiology at Labroots. Her background is in medical writing with significant experience in obesity, oncology, and infectious diseases. She has conducted research in microbial biophysics, optics, and education. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.
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