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Health Promot Perspect. 2018 Oct 27;8(4):255-262. doi: 10.15171/hpp.2018.36. eCollection 2018.

Intensity-specific effects of acute exercise on human memory function: considerations for the timing of exercise and the type of memory.

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Exercise & Memory Laboratory, Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management, The University of Mississippi, University, MS 38677, USA.


Background: The purpose of this review was to evaluate whether acute exercise intensities have unique effects on memory function, and whether this is influenced by memory type as well as the temporality of the acute exercise bout. Methods: A systematic review was employed, using several databases (PubMed, PsychInfo,Sports Discus, Google Scholar, Embase). Results: In total, 9 articles met the study criteria. All 9 studies evaluated either working memory capacity or episodic-related memory function. The main findings across these studies were 1) when acute exercise occurs before the memory task, high-intensity exercise may be less favorable for working memory but may favor episodic memory; 2) when acute exercise occurs during the memory task, high-intensity exercise may be less favorable for working memory capacity; and 3) high-intensity exercise may not associate with long-term memory function when it occurs shortly after memory encoding. Conclusion: The relationship between acute exercise and memory is complex and may vary based on the intensity of exercise, the temporality of exercise, and the memory type evaluated.


Episodic memory; High-intensity; Moderate-intensity; Walking; Working memory

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