By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

To do well in exams, students need to study material and retrieve this material at the time of exams.

This post discusses a strategy to quickly improve memory followed by other strategies to improve memory.

A small study of 36 healthy young adults conducted by Soya and colleagues, found immediate improvements in memory after just 10 minutes of low-intensity pedaling on a stationary bike (1,3).

How intense and what other type of exercise could be helpful?

A quick, light workout—which they liken in intensity to yoga or tai chi or 30% of each person’s maximum rate of oxygen consumption during exercise—was associated with heightened activity in the brain’s hippocampus, which helps us remember facts and events (1,3).

Earlier studies by Soya in rodents that found increased activity in the hippocampus and improved performance on tests of spatial memory after a light-intensity run on a controlled treadmill and more intense exercise didn’t offer the same memory boost (2,3).

How was memory assessed?

Memory was assessed using a memory test while researchers captured their brain activity by high resolution fMRI (1,3).

What were the results?

Participants made fewer errors on the image recognition test after they completed 10 minutes of very light exercise than when they only rested on the bike (1,3).

What did the brain scans show?

Brain scans of people during memory testing showed that improved memory performance was accompanied by increased activity and connectivity in the brain.

What are some caveats?

This is a small study and further research is needed.

The observed benefits of just 10 minutes of very light exercise were seen in healthy young adults (1,3).

It is not clear if longer exercise duration is more beneficial.

What else can you do to improve memory?

  • Get atleast 8 hours of sleep per night because sleep deprivation can impact many aspects of brain functioning.
  • Minimize distractions such as music or loud noises when studying, and study in an environment with minimal clutter even when you are not studying.
  • Eat healthy foods to fuel your brain.

Strategies to improve short term memory:

  1. Study frequently, in smaller chunks, and review material every few days to weeks.
  2. Entry and exit: review the hardest material first, and last.
  3. Create a meaning out of what you are learning, such as turning it into a story or a picture, linking the study material into something familiar, etc.
  4. Rearrange and combine material to make it easier to learn.
  5. Use mnemonics or memory tricks. Example, ROY G BIV stands for the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.
  6. Turn studying into a game such as flash cards, give yourself a test that you make, word matching, quiz, and exams.
  7. To watch a video on this, go to the Dennis Learning Center:

Strategies to improve long term memory:

  1. Structure information into a map or pattern (schematizing).
  2. Study frequently, in chunks, and review material every few days to weeks.
  3. Turn studying into a game such as flash cards, give yourself a test that you make, word matching, quiz, and exams.
  4. Picking out relevant information (main ideas such as chapter/paragraph headings, 1stsentence of paragraph/page, bold/italicized items) that helps you remember the bigger chunks of information (abstracting).
  5. Add something new to the information to make it stick, such as writing the information in your own words, write questions, and own examples (elaboration).
  6. Re-organizing information into diagrams, charts, or other structures that make sense to you (organizing).
  7. To watch a video on this, go to the Dennis Learning Center:

Most importantly, invest in study skills by reading books, exploring online resources on study skills.

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Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.


  1. Rapid stimulation of human dentate gyrus function with acute mild exercise. Suwabe K, Byun K, Hyodo K, Reagh ZM, Roberts JM, Matsushita A, Saotome K, Ochi G, Fukuie T, Suzuki K, Sankai Y, Yassa MA, Soya H. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Sep 24. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Long-term mild exercise training enhances hippocampus-dependent memory in rats. Inoue K, Hanaoka Y, Nishijima T, Okamoto M, Chang H, Saito T, Soya H. Int J Sports Med. 2015 Apr;36(4):280-285.


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Posted by R. Ryan Patel DO, FAPA OSU CCS Psychiatrist at 11:17amPosted in MemoryStudy Skills Tagged college student memorycollege study study skillsimprove memorystudy skills

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