Exercise improves learning and memory

Exercise makes you smart, says new study.

Recent research from Sweden has found that exercise has a positive effect on learning and memory.

Published in the journal Translational Sports Medicine, the research is a review of previous studies of exercisers between the ages of 18-35. There were 13 relevant studies included.

The types of exercise looked at was largely cardiovascular — walking, running and cycling.

Researchers found that aerobic exercise performed at a moderate-to-high intensity “improved attention, concentration, and learning and memory functions” for up to two hours afterwards.

As co-author of the study Peter Blomstrand put it: “Exercise makes you smart.”

The study

The research was a systematic review of previous studies examining the acute effects of a “single exercise workout on learning and memory functions in young adults”.

The cognitive tests that these studies used to evaluate their subjects included Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, Trail Making Test A and B, and Stroop Color Word Test.

After comparing and examining 13 relevant studies, the researchers concluded that “aerobic, physical exercise before encoding improves learning and memory functions in young adults”

In their conclusion, the researchers said:

“This systematic review strongly suggests that aerobic, physical exercise followed by a brief recovery before encoding improves attention, concentration, and learning and memory functions in young adults. The results of this review may have important education‐related implications. Identifying optimal exercise strategies may help students to enhance their learning and memory.”

Furthermore, the results showed that in order to achieve the positive cognitive effects, the optimum amount of time to exercise is between two minutes and one hour.

While a wide range, it falls into the standard workout time for most people, meaning that any kind of regular exercise is probably doing your brain some good.


Blomstrand and Engvall (2020.) ‘Effects of a single exercise workout on memory and learning functions in young adults—A systematic review’. Translational Sports Medicine.

First published: 08 August 2020. https://doi.org/10.1002/tsm2.190

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