If You Don’t Like Mnemonic Techniques, Try Walking

So you don’t like mnemonic techniques (Click the Mnemonic Techniques Category to see blog posts). Even though they improve memory. Even though they provide cognitive exercise involving creativity, recoding, imagining, and focusing attention. Even though they exercise both hemispheres of the brain. Then try walking.

Kirk Erickson did an experiment1 on the effects of aerobic exercise on 120 adults with an average age around 60. Different groups walked around a track, did yoga, or resistance training. They continued this exercise for a year. All groups performed better on spatial memory tests after exercising, but walking provided the greatest benefit. Brain scans were also done on the experimental participants. The brains of those in the walking group increased in volume by 2 percent on average. The other exercise groups decreased in volume by 1.4 percent on average. You should not infer that their exercise decreased their brain volume as a 1.4 percent is normal for sixty-year-olds. But the walking group increased by 2 percent over the normal 1.4 percent loss that was expected.

So the bottom line is that most any physical exercise is good for memory, walking seems to provide the best protection against aging-related brain shrinkage.

Of course, there is no need to wait until you are sixty to start walking. Clearly walking is beneficial to physical health, brain health, and a healthy memory. This also applies whether or not you use mnemonic techniques. Using mnemonic techniques likely add to healthy memory in addition to improving memory performance.

1In press in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/01/25/1015950108. Also summarized in Monitor on Psychology, April 2011, 42, p. 18 

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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