By Lela Nargi
“Go climb a tree!”
Sound like something you’d say to get your kids out of the house and out of your hair as the summer lingers on and on? According to a new study by researchers at the University of North Florida, climbing a tree—as well as balancing on a beam, running barefoot, and navigating obstacles—is actually a great way to improve working memory. This is defined as the “active processing of information,” which we need in order to perform well on everything from grades to sports. The best part? The benefits can be seen in a short period of time: the researchers found that two hours of the above-mentioned physical activities increased working memory by 50 percent.
All this works, according to the study, because activities such as tree climbing and obstacle navigating, while physical, also have a cognitive component—namely, to accomplish them, we have to use our working memory to adapt to changing conditions and environments. Says one of the study’s lead researchers, Dr. Ross Alloway, a member of UNF’s Department of Psychology, “The research suggests that by doing things that make us think, we can exercise our brains as well as our bodies.”
So by all means, banish your children to the trees—and take yourself along with them! Your memories will thank you.