Effects of Resting and Physical Exercise on Memory Retention


This study will explore the ways through which memory retention is affected by physical exercises and resting. 62 participants, university students will be used in this study. This paper is divided in three major parts, the introduction, methodology and a brief results section. The research hypotheses is that memory retention is improved by resting and physical exercise. The research actually found this to be true, that memory retention is greatly boosted by resting and physical exercise.


In psychology, memory is the storage of information that is learned and also the abilities to recall what was stored. Memory retention is the ability to remember something. There are three processes that are commonly hypothesized to occur whenever remembering happens and these are; perception of stimulus and their subsequent registering, maintenance of the perception temporarily (short-term memory), lasting perception storage (Abraham and Robins, 2005). Long term memories two main recognized types are declarative and procedural memory. Procedural memory is the recall of skills that have been learned while declarative memory is the remembrance of stimuli that is specific. There must always be a period of consolidation of information for long-term memory to occur. Memory retention is the ability of a person to retain or recall certain experiences and this is based on the recognition mental process or information retention.


Herman Ebbinghaus was the first person to scientifically study forgetting. He carried out memory tests with nonsense syllable groups which are disconnected syllables that do not have any associative connection (Ebbinghaus, 2013). Ebbingahus was able to prove that at first, the rate of forgetfulness is high and diminishes gradually until relatively constant levels of retained information are reached. Some of the theories that are used in the explaining of forgetfulness are the concept of disuse and that of interference (Bertamini, 2018). According to the concept of disuse, forgetfulness is usually as a result of failure to use information that is stored. On the other hand, according to the interference theory, information learned later on is interfered with by old information and information that was previously learned is interfered with by new information (Clark & Martin, 2018).

Navigating environments that are ever changing requires organisms to be able to make predictions of what will happen in the future. It is believed that the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) links actions and stimuli with outcomes that are anticipated for sustenance of behaviour that is flexible in environments that are ever changing (Zimmermann et al. 2018). In such a capacity, the OFC needs to retain certain information about events that happened in the past for purposes of organizing future behavior even though there is no proper understanding currently about how that happens (Davidasco et al. 2019). The OFC`s neural activities have the potential of correlating with the anticipation of pending outcomes and it is worth noting that the inactivation of the OFC during different reversal tasks never impacts the flexibility of responses immediately. Subsequent response choice is impacted immediately. Additionally, the inactivation of the OFC during such tasks that involve punishments subsequently modifies reactivity to conditioned stimuli that is associated to punishment. From these patterns, it can be deduced that the plasticity of the OFC during or soon after learning something new is quite important for future engagement of optimal response strategies (Abraham & Robins, 2005).

There have been substantial efforts that have been accorded in a bid to gain an understanding the involvement of OFC in the formation and modification of stimulus-outcome associations. Investigations related to response-outcomes have until recently largely been focused on medial prefrontal cortex. It is worth noting that even with this, the synaptic plasticity regulator`s selective knockdown in the OFC in a large way interferes with the abilities of mice to modify their behavior`s based on both response-outcome and stimulus-outcome associations. Additionally, these failures are corrected by a BDNF receptor agonist (Wamsley & Robertson, 2016).

Research Hypotheses

H1. Resting and physical exercises improve memory retention.

Research gaps

While most studies have explored the roles played by physical exercise and resting on memory retention, there is no study that analysed which of these two plays the prominent role. In addition to exploring the roles played by physical exercise and resting on memory retention, this study will seek to establish which of the two plays a more prominent role in boosting memory retention.


Quantitative research methods will be used in this study and interviews and surveys will be used for collection of data. 62 participants selected through simple random sampling will take part in this study and volunteer university students will be used. All the participants (30 Men and 32 Women) will have to be in good health and their ages will range between 17 to 25 years. There will be no incentives offered to the participants to take part in the study. The participants will be informed of the aims of the study and their consent obtained before they are involved fully.

To allocate participants to the different conditions in this study (physical activity and resting), repeated measures will be used where the same participants are involved in the different conditions of the independent variables. What this implies is that the same group of participants will be used in the different conditions of this study which are physical activity and resting.


Word lists will be created and issued to the participants were they will be required to go through a first word list with thirty words, immediately recall the list’s different words, go through a 15 minute which will either involve the completion of a distraction task or be required to rest wakefully which would involve quiet periods with reduced stimulation, memorize a second word list and immediately recall the words in the list, perform a rest condition or a distraction task and then finally, they will be made to complete free surprise recall tests. These are tests that will be provided randomly without pre-informing the guest.


The participants, will during the rest conditions be requested to quietly relax in a darkened testing room and with their eyes closed. The distraction conditions will involve solving of matrices which will be done as a measure of abstract reasoning. This will involve presentation of the participants with different items of geometric patterns whereby, each pattern will be made up of a target pattern that will have a missing part in the top left corner. There will be clear instructions to the participants to solve as many items as they can possibly solve. After every post-encoding condition, the participants will be requested to answer two questions; 1) how often they think about the words they have memorized and

2) How often they rehearse the words consciously. These questions will be answered through selection of seven different alternatives which will range from (“very often” to “not at all”).

During the surprise test the participants will be requested to write down as many words as they can remember.


There are different studies that have suggested that retention of memory is supported by brief wakeful rest periods that come after learning. What that implies is that memory performance is affected by the period that exists between recall and learning. There exists evidence that learning is affected by brief periods of rest. The brief periods of rest lead to reduced forgetting rates. Van Dongen et al. (2016) posit that subsequent memory performance is affected by distraction that comes after encoding and that is regardless of whether the available distractors are dissimilar or similar to the content that was learned. What that means in simple terms is that mentally effortful post-encoding distraction tasks induce forgetfulness and that is irrespective of the content of the post-encoding distraction task. Additionally, there are different post-encoding interventions that have revealed negative effects on memory retention.

It is a fact that the consolidation of memories takes time, that is, considerable time is required to transfer them into long-term memories and that makes them less prone to distraction. There is an assumption that is often made that immediately after acquisition of a memory, it becomes susceptible to interference. Consequently, reduction of interference and provision of wakeful periods of rest should provide support for consolidation and retention of memory. Varma et al. 2017, however, posit that increased delayed memory preferences are not necessarily brought about by post-encoding resting. They further argue that it is only under certain conditions that the post-encoding phase affects the retention of memory.

Schlichting and Bauml (2017) further argue that direct forgetting is affected by wakeful resting following learning.

It is a fact that the human brains change across lifespans and often, the changes coincide with alterations that are related to age in cognitive performance of tasks. For example, white and grey matter loses with increasing age in the parietal lobes, prefrontal cortex and specific parts of the medial temporal lobes are found to have an association with decreased episodic memory, processing speed, working memory and even reasoning.

Persistent long term memory is dependent on integration and successful new memories stabilization after their initial encoding. The process of consolidation requires different neuromodulatory factors like noradrenaline, dopamine and brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Memories rapidly decay if these factors are not released. Walker & Robertson (2016), posit that the release of different human consolidation factors is boosted by physical exercise. According to van Dongen et al. (2016), exercise that is appropriately timed has the potential of improving long term memory in addition to highlighting exercise`s potential as an intervention in both clinical and educational settings.

There are several instances whereby the loss of memory is both a physiological and organic process. Retrograde amnesia is known as the failure to remember those events that preceded an injury of the brain and this is one proper example of interrupted memory consolidation. Those events that happen after damaging of the brain could be forgotten in anterograde amnesia (Ostrowski et al. 2015). Loss of memory could also come about from deterioration of brain cells as a result of either Alzheimer`s disease, cardiovascular disease or stroke.

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Clark, R. E., & Martin, S. J. (Eds.). (2018). Behavioral Neuroscience of Learning and Memory (Vol. 37). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Davidesco, I., Laurent, E., Valk, H., West, T., Dikker, S., Milne, C., & Poeppel, D. (2019). Brain-to-brain synchrony predicts long-term memory retention more accurately than individual brain measures. bioRxiv, 644047.

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Martini, M., Zamarian, L., Sachse, P., Martini, C., & Delazer, M. (2019). Wakeful resting and memory retention: a study with healthy older and younger adults. Cognitive processing, 20(1), 125-131

Ostrowski, D., Kahsai, L., Kramer, E. F., Knutson, P., & Zars, T. (2015). Place memory retention in Drosophila. Neurobiology of learning and memory, 123, 217-224.

van Dongen, E. V., Kersten, I. H., Wagner, I. C., Morris, R. G., & Fernández, G. (2016). Physical exercise performed four hours after learning improves memory retention and increases hippocampal pattern similarity during retrieval. Current Biology, 26(13), 1722-1727.

Walker, M. P., & Robertson, E. M. (2016). Memory processing: ripples in the resting brain. Current Biology, 26(6), R239-R241.

Wamsley, E. J. (2019). Memory consolidation during waking rest. Trends in cognitive sciences, 23(3), 171-173.

Zimmermann, K. S., Li, C. C., Rainnie, D. G., Ressler, K. J., & Gourley, S. L. (2018). Memory retention involves the ventrolateral orbitofrontal cortex: comparison with the basolateral amygdala. Neuropsychopharmacology, 43(2), 373.

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