Leadership, Memory and Exercise

Do you have an amazing memory? Or are you average – or below average – when it comes to remembering what you’ve just learned? If you have an average memory, you only remember 5% – 7% of what you learn, unless you immediately take steps to reinforce that learning. (Or drink alcohol, according to this study. Thoughts?) If you’re in a leadership position, you’re at an advantage if you have a stronger than average memory – so it’s worth exploring how to boost your recall ability.

In a recent study highlighted in this New York Times article, researchers from Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior at Radboud University in the Netherlands and the University of Edinburgh draw a strong connection between exercise and memory.

In this study, 72 adult men and women spent 40 minutes undergoing a test of visual and spatial learning. They looked at pictures on a computer screen and then were asked to recall their locations. Next, all the participants watched nature documentaries (sounds like a pleasant experiment, doesn’t it?). Two-thirds of them also exercised: half were put through interval training immediately after the test; the remainder did the same workout four hours later. Two days later everyone returned to the lab and took the test again.

The outcome? Those who exercised four hours after the test recalled information with more accuracy!

So it seems that long-term memory is influenced by what happens when you are learning and also by what takes place afterward when this new information is being assimilated by your brain. So interesting! This information gives me even more motivation to go hiking in the Berkshires and beyond. Say hello to exercise after learning sessions and goodbye to standard office hours.

Here are three more tips to help solidify learning:

  1. Take notes during or immediately after the learning session.
  2. Reread your notes the next day and highlight the top points.
  3. Get enough sleep – a good eight hours helps to reinforce memory.
  4. Share what you have learned with someone else. The old adage “Teaching is the best way to learn” is an old adage because it works.

Let me know if you have any tips for increasing memory. And let’s talk soon.