The Effects of Acute Exercise on Short- and Long-Term Memory: Considerations for the Timing of Exercise and Phases of Memory


  • Paul D. Loprinzi
  • Sierra Day
  • Rebecca Hendry
  • Sara Hoffman
  • Alexis Love
  • Sarah Marable
  • Elizabeth McKee
  • Sydney Stec
  • Hanna Watson
  • Brittney Gilliland


The specific questions addressed from this research include: (1) Does high-intensity acute exercise improve memory?, (2) If so, do the mechanisms occur via encoding, consolidation, or retrieval? and (3) If acute exercise occurs in multiple phases of memory (e.g., before encoding and during consolidation), does this have an additive effect on memory? Three experimental, within-subject, counterbalanced studies were conducted among young adults. High-intensity exercise involved a 20-minutes bout of exercise at 75% of heart rate reserve. Memory was evaluated from a word-list task, including multiple evaluations out to 24-hours post-encoding. The timing of the exercise and memory assessments were carefully positioned to evaluate whether any improvements in memory were driven by mechanisms related to encoding, consolidation, and/or retrieval. We demonstrated that high-intensity acute exercise enhanced memory. This effect was robust (repeatable) and occurred through encoding, consolidation and retrieval-based mechanisms. Further, incorporating acute exercise into multiple phases of memory additively enhanced memory function.