Physical Exercise Improves Long-Term-Memory?

As an international student, coming to the United States was a huge culture shock in many aspects of life, but the biggest difference I noticed was the negative stigma of obesity and physical exercise in the United States. The adult population of the United States has an inactive rate of about 41% while Bangladesh has an inactive rate of about 4.7%, so what’s the big deal? Why won’t people take thirty minutes of their day to get out and move their legs?

According to Sherry Pagoto from, people do not exercise because of their initial instinct to avoid discomfort. She also states that the people who choose to exercise know that the results of daily physical activity most definitely outweigh the costs; so lets talk about these benefits. I’m probably not the only one in SC200 who wrote a blog post about the benefits of physical exercise. In fact, I am most certain that I am not the only one who wrote about this topic because many college and high school students face the dilemma of whether they should spend their extra time to exercise or to spend it on more studying.

Exercise has numerous physical benefits such as controlling weight, reducing risk of cardiovascular, greatly reducing the risk of diabetes, strengthening bones and muscles, and much more. Even with all of these possible benefits, not enough high school students engage in physical activity; according to Amy Norton from CBS, a recent study shows that nine out of ten teenagers do not get enough exercise. THAT IS INSANE! The young people of this generation are spending their extra time to expand their brain to accommodate for the never-ending hallway of knowledge, meanwhile, their lack of exercise risks their body for contracting chronic diseases, and many more health problems.

In this blog, I hope to persuade readers that exercise is essential because it not only positively impacts physical prowess, but it can also improve mental health and improve upon learning because scientists have recently found that physical exercise can greatly improve long-term memory. 

Now i know that when a bunch of nerdy looking people with white lab coats say something scientific, we tend to believe it! Let’s slow down a little bit and not fall into the logical fallacy of appealing to authority. During Justin Wright’s presentation in class, he told us to be skeptical of what scientists are telling us because they want to be credited with a grand discovery that might not be true, so lets look at the scientific process of this statement!

The null hypothesis of the statement is that physical exercise does not have any real effect on long term memory. On the other side, the alternative hypothesis states that people who exercise regularly have improved long-term memory. Naturally, the topic of the study begs to present the question of whether or not there is a correlation between the two variables, and if so, is it a direct causation? To fully examine whether these nerdy scientists are telling the truth, let’s look at two experiments that dive right into this topic. The first study focuses on experiments done to mice while the second study focuses on experiments done with people.

Through a single blind experimental study, Professor Bischofberger and her team randomly assigned two group of mice to either the control group that had a running wheel in the cage, and the control group that did not have a running wheel. For the first hour and a half, the mice in both groups were given two similar objects, but after, the researchers switched one of the objects with a new, different object. After 24 hours, the new object was switched again with a similar or different looking object to the one that was switched. According to the researchers, mice are naturally attracted to new and different objects rather than familiar ones, so the researchers used this as a measure for the study. The data of the study yielded results that denied the null hypothesis. After 1.5 hours, mice from both the control and experimental groups could distinguish differences from both objects, however, after 24 hours only the mice from the experimental group could distinguish differences between the two objects.

Yellow-necked Mouse (Apodemus flavicollis) juvenile

Yellow-necked Mouse (Apodemus flavicollis) juvenile

Ok wow! The experiment showed us that there was a clear correlation between exercise of the mice and long term memory of the mice. Because the study was experimental and not observational, there is no way that confounding variables and reverse causation could be a possible explanation towards the results of the experiment. To further validate the results, the researchers of the experiment explained their findings through a mechanism: the exercise from the mice generated new brain cells in the adult brain, which is called neurogenesis. The new cells created played a pivotal role in learning and memory for the mice. Even though correlation does not always equal causation,  we can infer that exercise caused improved long-term memory with the mice in the experiment.

So what!? Just because it worked on mice, doesn’t mean it will work on humans! Well that’s not completely true because mice share 90% of the same genes as humans. If you still don’t believe that, the second study may convince you since it was done on humans. One year after the experiment on mice, A study in the Journal Current Biology shows that exercise after learning improves memory, only if the exercise is done four hours after learning. This was another single blind experiment where the researchers randomly assigned 72 participants to either a control group or the experimental group. The results stated that those who exercised four hours after initial learning retained information than people who did not exercise. The study also shows that the magnetic resonance imaging from exercising showed more representation in the hippocampus, which is important for learning; this was a mechanism the researchers used to validate their results showing the correlation between exercise and long-term memory loss.


Ok so wow! There was a lot of information in there about the correlation between increased physical exercise and long-term memory, so let’s summarize it! There are numerous health benefits to physical activity, yet a large percentage of the population will not engage in physical exercise because they believe that the time spent on exercise can be utilized more efficiently. High school and college students in particular spend extra time  to study more in hopes of achieving and retaining more information. New studies have shown that spending time on exercise can do more than improve your physical quality because physical activities can also strengthen the mind by improving long term memory. Baffled by the inactivity rate of high school students and the population of the United States, I want to persuade you people that this is true from the research I have gathered through numerous studies!

with concluding remarks, I would like to say that there will be numerous claims from scientists that may or may not be true. Do not fall into the hands of the highly credited scientists, just because they say something; follow up on their results: see if their data faces any inconsistencies, or if other scientists refute the findings. In this particular case, we heard that physical activity improves long term memory, so we expanded upon this statement and found consistent data that supported this claim. So yes, you should definitely spend extra free time to exercise because there are numerous direct and unknown benefits that come with physical exercise!


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3 thoughts on “Physical Exercise Improves Long-Term-Memory?

  1. Lauren Eve Ribeiro

    This post was really well written and I was able to learn a lot. I agree with you when you say that so many students are so tied up in their studies that they do not get enough exercise. Personally, I have a gym membership every summer and go at least 5 times a week, but when I get to school I do not even bother getting one. Most of my time is spent doing school work and when I do catch a break I like to hang out with some friends or watch some netflix. Do you think that certain exercise is more beneficial on long term memory. For example would lifting be more beneficial on your memory than cardio, or vise-versa? I think it would be interesting to do a study on Penn State students vs. students of a smaller school. Students from PSU who walked/biked to class everyday would be the experimental group, and students who went to a very small school or took online classes would be the control group. Both groups could be studied over a long period of time to see if the students at penn state who exercised due to the large campus had better memory. It is surprising but if you have a fitbit or check the health app on your iphone, you would be surprised to see how much we walk on this campus!!

  2. Olivia Anne Browne

    Great post! Extremely informative. You can really see how much effort you put into this. I find this topic very interesting because I love to exercise. Besides the obvious benefits of looking and feeling great, its really rewarding to know there are more benefits than just the obvious ones. I think people take the topic of exercising too lightly. A lot of my friends wouldn’t be caught dead in the gym. I think exercise is very important for a physical and mental health.
    Check out this article on exercise as medicine for your mental health.

  3. Derek William Drotman

    This is a very impressive blog post ! I am definitely think it is important for people to exercise even if its something as simple as walking for an hour a day. Personally when I go to the gym its relieves my stress and allows me to focus better. The statistic which states the rate of inactive Americans definitely blew my mind. Being physically active will not only improve memory which is beneficial in school and the workplace but will decrease obesity and make them healthier. Hopefully this post will encourage students to take a little break from studying or watching their favorite tv show and get exercise. Here is a great link that reveals why physical activity is so important.

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