Physical exercise helps working memory and inhibition

Conchy Padilla & Pilar andrés

Conchy Padilla & Pilar andrés

The new study by Padilla, Pérez and Andrés published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience compared sedentary and physically active young adults on working memory and inhibition task. The results show that physical activity improves working memory and inhibition. Active adults were better at controlling their actions, ignore distractors in a memory task and process two verbal tasks at the same time.


Padilla, C.; Pérez, L.; i Andrés, P. (2014, 11th March). Chronic exercise keeps working memory and inhibitory capacities fit». Frontiers in Behavorial Neuroscience. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00049 [download]


Padilla et al. (2013) recently showed that chronic aerobic exercise in young adults is associated with better inhibitory control as measured by the strategic Stop Signal Task (SST). The aim of the current study was to explore whether better inhibitory abilities, associated with high levels of physical fitness, were also associated with higher working memory capacity (WMC) in young healthy adults. Participants aged between 18 and 30 years and showing different levels of fitness confirmed by the Rockport 1-mile walking fitness test took part in this study. Active and passive participants were administered the SST to measure inhibitory control, and the Automatic Operation Span to measure verbal WMC. We first replicated Padilla et al.’s results showing that exercise specifically modulates strategic inhibitory processes. Our results also showed that active participants presented with better WMC than sedentary ones, showing a better capacity to manage simultaneously two verbal tasks and to inhibit interference. The results point to an association between chronic exercise, inhibitory abilities and WMC. The theoretical relationship between these variables will be discussed.