Treadmill walking during vocabulary encoding improves verbal long-term memory

Behav Brain Funct. 2014 Jul 12;10:24. doi: 10.1186/1744-9081-10-24.


Moderate physical activity improves various cognitive functions, particularly when it is applied simultaneously to the cognitive task. In two psychoneuroendocrinological within-subject experiments, we investigated whether very low-intensity motor activity, i.e. walking, during foreign-language vocabulary encoding improves subsequent recall compared to encoding during physical rest. Furthermore, we examined the kinetics of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in serum and salivary cortisol. Previous research has associated both substances with memory performance.In both experiments, subjects performed better when they were motorically active during encoding compared to being sedentary. BDNF in serum was unrelated to memory performance. In contrast we found a positive correlation between salivary cortisol concentration and the number of correctly recalled items. In summary, even very light physical activity during encoding is beneficial for subsequent recall.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Language Therapy
  • Male
  • Memory, Long-Term / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Verbal Learning / physiology*
  • Vocabulary*
  • Walking / psychology*
  • Young Adult


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Hydrocortisone