A specific exercise for a specific memory?

Aerobic exercise to boost certain memories?

It could be that in the future, if you want to remember your shopping list at the grocery store without having to check your phone, you would do a specific group of exercises! Way, way in the future, so don’t get your hopes up. But new research has shown that certain types of exercise helped study participants in remembering certain types of data. We do know that exercise has benefits for our brain and mental health, but this is much more specific than we had previously thought. The thinking that if we do a specific exercise for a specific memory boost is remarkable.

Exercise improves brain health

It’s been shown that exercise improves memory on a general level, even after a single workout. And, on a long-term basis, exercise improves overall brain health. And studies have shown that over time exercise is associated with a reduced risk of brain health problems such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, both concerns for our healthy aging.

Different feelings after different workouts

I know that I feel differently after a run, for example, than after a Pilates session. I’m more energized (and sweaty) and outwardly happy after doing my run / walk workout. After a Pilates session, I feel calm, with a happy buzz. But I must admit that I hadn’t noticed specific memory improvements. I know that right after a workout I can remember some things better but hadn’t noted which “things!”

Correlation between exercise and memory

This research study by Dartmouth, published in Nature, delves into the correlation between exercise and memory. This was a relatively small study with only 113 participants, but the results are interesting. Fitbit data was analyzed after participants were given various types of memory tests post-workout. Researchers looked for patterns between those results and the workouts the participants did. 

Not surprisingly, the study showed that overall the more active people had better memories than the non-active people. But it also showed that high-intensity exercise was correlated with good performance on the “spatial-learning task” (remembering the positions of shapes on a screen). “Low-to-moderate-intensity” cardio activity, like going for a walk, was associated with improved “naturalistic recall” (remembering a narrative of events). And people who performed better on the foreign-language test “tended to be less active,” the report added, while participants who did well on free recall and naturalistic recall were more active.

So, this study supports previous research on exercise and memory, but it also presents a focus for future work needed. Could there be a specific exercise for a specific memory? Time and research will tell. I’ll be looking forward to reading the results.

I needed to release frustration

Pissed off! I got an unwelcome piece of mail a couple of days ago and was totally steamed by it. My company received a notice from the IRS about a penalty charged for late filing of a return. I knew that the return was filed on time, so I was angry. That turned into an overall bad mood. I knew that I needed to calm down to deal with this (in a day or two) because I had to give my 14-year-old dog a bath that day. I had to be calm and gentle with my dog. Not rip his legs off as I felt like in the moment. What’s the solution? A really intense workout to help release frustration and anger.

Kick boxing to the rescue

I chose a short (because I had things to do, obviously) but intense kick boxing program. Pump up the heart rate, get the sweat going and release the frustration.

The workout started with a warmup to let my muscles know they were going to have to do some work. And then eased into punches and kicks..

Mission accomplished

When that half hour was done, I was a sweaty mess, but I achieved my goal to workout to release the frustration. My mood was very much improved and I was able to give Tango a nice calming bath.

How does that work?

Side kick in a Turbo Jam workout

You’ve heard the phrase, “runner’s high?” Same thing works with other exercise that targets the cardiovascular system. Raise your heart rate for a sustained period of time, and your body releases endorphins. Those endorphins attach to your opioid receptors, causing a boost to your mood

So, my immediate mission was accomplished – I wouldn’t kill Tango during his bath – but I also did other good things for myself. I’ve written that exercise not only improves your mood but also has other benefits for our healthy aging: it improves memory, helps you sleep better, and improves optimism and resilience. Not only does a great workout release frustration and anger immediately, but it has other longer-lasting benefits.

All’s well

I dealt with the IRS and the agent I spoke with removed the penalty. I bathed my dog. And I was able to release frustration and anger. A good day.

No. It depends. A while. Answers to goal-specific fitness questions.

When will I see Exercise Results?

When do you see exercise results? It depends... And everyone is different.

“I have a wedding in June. Will I be skinny by then?” “How long ‘til I fit into Size 6 jeans?” “When will I see a six-pack?” Were you laughing when you read those questions? Me too. And yet, deep down, I kind of wondered when I’d see exercise results all those years ago when I lost weight. By now, you know that “No,” “It depends,” and “A while” are the answers. It turns out that “It depends” is the answer to quite a few goal-specific fitness questions. 

Goals are key

Having specific goals, committing to a program and sticking with that program is the sure path to success in reaching a fitness goal. For example, if you want to lose 5 pounds in a month, experts agree that it’s totally doable. Reduce the number of calories you consume (a food journal helps with this), increase calories burned (an exercise program will help here), make sure you’re hydrated, get enough sleep, and reduce stress. That’s the formula. Of course, it’s never so cut and dry. 

Our emotions get in the way. We eat because of stress. And we eat when we’re happy. When it comes to exercise – there’s never a good time to do it. Or we just don’t feel like it. So, having real, achievable, specific goals is the key to keeping on track.

Everyone’s different

We’re human. And as humans, our bodies react differently to the food we eat and exercises we do. Exercise results are different for everybody. My body reacts differently than yours. Your body may not retain water the way mine does – be grateful. Or your muscles may respond more quickly to exercise than mine. Everyone’s different. So – it depends when you’ll see those results you want.

A real time frame … wait for it

But, there is sort of a time frame on when you can expect to see some results from your hard work. “When performed appropriately, exercise can lead to physiological changes in about eight to 12 weeks for most people,” Chris Gagliardi, MS (an ACE-certified personal trainer) says. “This does not mean that everyone will respond to exercise in the same way. Some people may see and feel results in less than eight to 12 weeks, and for others, it may take more time.” 

Don’t exercise for the outward results

It’s such a long time to see any results, that it’s important not to focus on these physiological changes. Remember all the other benefits that come from exercise. Remember that even Khloe Kardashian exercises for the invisible benefits! If I have to wait 2 to 3 months to see any results, there had better be other benefits to this whole healthy living thing! 

The biggest reason for me to exercise is the brain boost I get, and how much better I feel emotionally afterward.

Get up – get going – get it done

Get it done – no matter what it is

Get it done!

If you like to get stuff that  you don’t especially enjoy doing out of the way early, like I do, then this is for you! The great Mark Twain is credited with saying, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” And if you think about it, that’s probably true. And productivity expert Brian Tracy has expanded on Twain’s saying in his book, Eat That Frog. When I can, I try to abide by that precept – get up, get going, get it done. That way I have more time to do what I really want to do later on.

If you don’t like to exercise, you probably won’t do it

If you hate to exercise – I’ve said it before – you’re not going to do it. But if you find an exercise program that you don’t mind, and you like the music, the choreography, and the instructor, then you’re more likely to do it. If you have that program queued up, then you don’t have to waste time looking for it and you can just jump in. And if you don’t have anything else scheduled, you can exercise early and get it done. My favorite time to exercise is early – what a great feeling to get it done.

Taking action early = fulfillment

This maxim can translate to other areas of your life too. When you see yourself as someone who takes action, and takes it early on, there’s a real sense of fulfillment. It’s not enough to see yourself in a certain way, though, you have to take the steps to get it done. 

Perfectionist? Let it go

That could mean easing up on your perfectionist leanings. I know – you like things to be “just so.” But if you keep tweaking a project, it will never be finished. And done is almost always better than perfect. Naturally, check for typos and other obvious errors, but as a chilly heroine would say, let the rest go.

Other productivity professionals say, “Be dumber and care less.” I change that to “grow a thicker skin.” Of course we care about our work. Sometimes that shows up as, “perhaps I should tweak this sentence so people won’t think ‘X’ about me.” My rule has been to not overtly offend anyone, but if I have something important to say, then say it. You can be a genius, use all the high-falutin’ vocabulary, and finish a project in 3 weeks. Or you can just say something plainly and get it done. And once that thing is done, you’ll get a sense of accomplishment! It’s done! Finished! And I did it! So happy! What a boost to your optimism and resilience.

How to get it all done

Sounds good, right? But how to get it done efficiently? First, identify the project. Next, identify the steps you need to take. Third, flesh out those steps. And finally, get up and get going.