Physical Activity and Memory Retention: Two Peas in a Pod

When is the last time you exercised? Take a moment to think about it, Whether that be completing a lengthy workout at your local gym, a yoga class at the hip studio down the block, or even a walk in your neighborhood park. Do you remember how you felt afterwards? Or more specifically, can you recall how the physical activity you performed impacted your memory? Chances are you don’t remember and that’s perfectly fine but I want to introduce you to something completely mind blowing!

Would you believe me if I told you that physical activity actually helps improve memory retention and mood?

Believe it or not, this is a very researched topic and rumor is true, aerobic exercise and memory recall have a very close relationship with one another. Let’s call them peas in a pod to help you understand the tight-knit relationship they share.

Why am I sharing this with you anyways?

So here’s the thing, this summer part of my role as a science education student in GRS, I will be partaking in developing a week-long science camp program for middle school students in Sodus. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sodus, it’s a small, rural town located about 35 miles northeast of Rochester, NY right along Lake Ontario. Collectively, my group (The Playground Posse) and I are responsible for creating lesson plans related to our provided topic which is based off the fact that Sodus’ elementary school will be getting a new, updated playground later this year.

The overarching question we came up with is: What components should an inclusive playground that is physically and mentally rigorous incorporate? Hopefully now you better understand why I want to discuss this phenomenon in greater detail. One of the potential activities my group members have considered doing with the students in camp is to create a memory game that incorporates physical activity. We found a great educational video from Dragonfly TV, a science education television series that appeared on PBS, that put this question to the test! We intend of doing something along the lines of having the students memorize a ton of different objects laid out on a table, have them exert all of that bundled up energy in the form of being active on the playground and running around, and then have them choose which objects are in the same pile on the table from earlier.

This is the playground at Sodus Elementary School that will be getting replaced. It’s your standard run-of-the-mill playground design. We want the students themselves to have a voice in what they want for the new design!

So now you are probably wondering where all the science is to back up this awesome claim. I found a phenomenal TED Talk from neuroscientist and NYU professor Dr. Wendy Suzuki where she discusses the unique relationship between physical exercise and mood and memory. Some of her most recent work highlights how aerobic exercise can be used to improve not only learning but memory retention and higher cognitive abilities in humans.

If you are even the slightest bit curious about how this works, I highly recommend watching this short, yet extremely informative video to learn why Dr. Suzuki believes that, “Exercise is the most transformative thing that you can do to your body.”

Wendy Suzuki gives a captivating lecture on the relationship between brain activity and physical activity.

The Playground Posse would love to hear from you! Please feel free to comment any suggestions you may have for a creative memory-physical activity game for our camp plans.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading (and learning!) and have a fantastic weekend full of exercise and vitamin D!

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