Climbing a tree or balancing on a beam can dramatically improve cognitive skills, according to a study recently conducted by researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Florida. The study is the first to show that proprioceptively dynamic activities like climbing a tree, done over a short period of time, have dramatic working memory benefits. Working memory (the ability to process and recall information), is linked to performance in a wide variety of contexts from grades to sports. Proprioception (awareness of body positioning and orientation) is also associated with working memory. The results of this research, led by Ross Alloway, a research associate, and Tracy Alloway, an associate professor, recently published in Perceptual and Motor Skills, suggest that working-memory improvements can be made in just a couple of hours with these physical exercises.
The aim of this study was to see if proprioceptive activities completed over a short period of time can enhance working memory performance, and whether an acute and highly intensive period of exercise would yield working memory gains. The UNF researchers recruited adults ages 18 to 59 and tested their working memory. Next, they undertook proprioceptively dynamic activities, designed by the company Movnat, which required proprioception and at least one other element, such as locomotion or route planning.