Aerobic fitness affects long-term memory, according to a study conducted by researchers from Michigan State University.

The study, which involved the testing of 75 college students who studied related word pairs and were tested the following day on the word pairs, was designed to test long-term memory retention. Researchers then gauged aerobic fitness by oxygen consumption derived from a treadmill test. “The implications of those [sedentary] lifestyle choices and related cardiorespiratory fitness levels for memory function are not well-understood,” says Fenn. “To determine the extent to which cardiorespiratory fitness relates to the integrity of multiple memory systems, a cross-sectional sample of young adult  were tested over the course of 3 days in areas related to implicit memory, working memory, long-term memory, and aerobic fitness.”

The results revealed that students who were less fit found it more difficult to retain information associated with the test. ““The findings show that lower-fit individuals lose more memory across time,” said Kimberly Fenn, study coauthor and assistant professor of psychology.”

According to the paper, previous studies on memory and fitness level focused mostly on children and the elderly. This current study, however, is one of the first to examine healthy, young adults.

“The findings speak to the increasingly sedentary lifestyles found in the United States and other Western cultures,” said Fenn. “A surprising number of the college students in the study were significantly out of shape and did much worse at retaining information than those who were extremely fit.” The study were published in the journal Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience.