Looking to improve your working memory? Try dynamic exercise. A new study from the University of North Florida (UNF) Department of Psychology finds that people who participate in proprioceptively dynamic activities—like climbing trees or navigating through obstacles—see improvements in working memory. Working memory is the active processing of information. It is linked to performance in academic and athletic contexts. The findings indicate that working memory can get a significant improvement from a relatively short amount of activity.
The researchers wanted to discover whether short sessions of proprioceptive activities could improve working memory performance. Proprioception involves an awareness of body positioning and orientation, which means that the brain has to think and adapt to new situations and movements. The researchers tested a group of participants who completed proprioceptively dynamic activities and two control groups. They administered working memory tests to the participants before and after a two-hour period.
The activities that the experimental group participated in required the use of proprioception and at least one other element, like route planning or locomotion. These participants climbed trees, ran barefoot, walked on narrow beams, and navigated through obstacles. One of the control groups was a college class learning new information in a lecture. The other control group was a yoga class that did static proprioceptive activities.
For those who completed the proprioceptively dynamic activities, working memory increased by 50 percent after the activity period. In contrast, neither of the control groups demonstrated improvements in working memory. This indicates that learning new information and static proprioceptive activities do not bestow the same benefits as dynamic proprioceptive activities.
“This research suggests that by doing activities that make us think, we can exercise our brains as well as our bodies. This research has wide-ranging implications for everyone from kids to adults. By taking a break to do activities that are unpredictable and require us to consciously adapt our movements, we can boost our working memory to perform better in the classroom and the boardroom,” stated study co-leader Dr. Ross Alloway, research associate at UNF.
This research is published in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills.