Research supports the positive effects of exercise on cognitive performance by children. However, a limited number of studies have explored the effects specifically on memory. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of an acute bout of exercise on learning, short-term memory, and long-term memory in a sample of children. Children were randomly assigned to an exercise condition or to a no-treatment control condition and then performed repeated trials on an auditory verbal learning task. In the exercise condition, participants performed the PACER task, an aerobic fitness assessment, in their physical education class before performing the memory task. In the control condition, participants performed the memory task at the beginning of their physical education class. Results showed that participants in the exercise condition demonstrated significantly better learning of the word lists and significantly better recall of the words after a brief delay. There were not significant differences in recognition of the words after an approximately 24-hr delay. These results provide evidence in a school setting that an acute bout of exercise provides benefits for verbal learning and long-term memory. Future research should be designed to identify the extent to which these findings translate to academic measures.
The authors are with the Dept. of Kinesiology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC. Address author correspondence to Jennifer Etnier at email@example.com.