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Experimental Effects of Acute High-Intensity Resistance Exercise on Episodic Memory Function: Consideration for Post-Exercise Recovery Period

  • Loprinzi, Paul D.
  • Green, David
  • Wages, Shelby
  • Cheke, Lucy G.
  • Jones, Timothy
Published Article
Journal of Lifestyle Medicine
Yonsei University Wonju College of Medicine
Publication Date
Jan 31, 2020
DOI: 10.15280/jlm.2020.10.1.7
PMID: 32328444
PMCID: PMC7171060
PubMed Central


Background The present experiments evaluated the effects of acute high-intensity resistance exercise on episodic memory. Methods Two experiments were conducted. For Experiment 1, participants (N = 40; Mage = 21.0 years) were randomized into one of two groups, including an experimental exercise group and a control group (seated for 20 min). The experimental group engaged in an acute bout of resistance exercises (circuit style exercises) for 15 minutes, followed by a 5-min recovery period. Memory function was subsequently assessed using a multiple trial (immediate and delay), word-list episodic memory task (Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, RAVLT), and then followed by a comprehensive, computerized assessment of episodic memory (Treasure Hunt task, THT). The THT involved a spatio-temporal assessment of what, where, and when components of episodic memory. Experiment 2 evaluated if altering the recovery period would influence the potential negative effects of high-intensity resistance exercise on episodic memory function. For Experiment 2, participants (N = 51) were randomized into the same acute resistance exercise protocol but either with a 10-min recovery period, 20-min recovery period, or a control group. Results For Experiment 1, for RAVLT, the exercise group performed worse (Fgroup × time = 3.7, p = .001, η 2p = .09). Across nearly all THT outcomes, the exercise group had worse spatio-temporal memory than the control group. These results suggest that high-intensity resistance exercise (with a 5-min recovery) may have a detrimental effect on episodic memory function. For Experiment 2, for RAVLT, the exercise with 10-min recovery group performed better (Fgroup × time = 3.1, p = .04, η 2p = .11). Unlike Experiment 1, exercise did not impair spatio-temporal memory, with the 20-min exercise recovery group having the best “where” component of episodic memory. Conclusion Collectively, the results from these two experiments suggest that acute high-intensity resistance exercise may impair episodic memory when a short exercise recovery period (e.g., 5-min) is employed, but with a longer recovery period (10+ min), acute high-intensity resistance exercise may, potentially, enhance episodic memory.

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