New research from Edge Hill University shows that exercising at moderate intensity improves the accuracy of a person’s short-term memory.

Tests carried out on healthy, active people aged 18-35 revealed that moderate to intense running or cycling for 30 minutes improved the accuracy of short-term memory.

When asked to remember a list of associated items such as household building terms including roof, door and wall, people who hadn’t exercised before the recall test were more likely to remember ‘false’ associated words in the list, such as saying window when it wasn’t there.

Those who had exercised however accurately remembered more words and didn’t show ‘false memory’ in the test.

Another experiment also showed that exercising before learning the list of words also benefited immediate recall.

David Marchant, Reader of Sport and Exercise Psychology, who conducted the research said: “We wanted to test how physical arousal through an acute bout of aerobic exercise affects memory. Previous published research shows mixed results and we were particularly keen to test the accuracy of short-term memory.

“In certain types of physical arousal such as emotional or stress, short-term memory is affected and mistakes are more common. After exercise (in this case we tested cyclists and runners) we found this wasn’t the case with more correct cognitive recalls.”

The University’s Research Investment Fund (RIF) supported the study which will be presented today (Tuesday 13 December) at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society.

Over the coming months the research will be developed to look at whether factors such as a person’s natural memory ability, fitness level or other physical factors affect the accuracy of short-term memory in this context.

Other research from Edge Hill’s Department of Sport and Physical Activity will also be presented at the conference, including how a footballer’s belief they can control the goalkeeper can actually improve their accuracy in penalty shootouts.