Depression is commonly found to be negatively associated with memory and attention and results in poor academic performance. Psychological comorbidity among university students is a neglected problem and holds major implications for campus health services. Purpose of this study was to determine the effect of aerobic exercise and meditation on Short-term Memory (STM) and attention in young university students with depression.
Thirty participants in the age group of 18-25 years were recruited using Beck Depression Inventory version II (BDI-II) and randomly assigned to control (MG) and experimental groups (AG). MG listened to audio of Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 1 except track 2 by Jon Kabat-Zinn for 10 minutes and AG was administrated with aerobic exercise (60%-70% of maximum heart rate) for 20 minutes. Both groups attended a total of 12 sessions, 3 sessions per week on alternate days for four weeks consecutively. Participants were tested 1-day prior and 1-day post intervention using Digit Span Forward and Backward Test for STM and Digit Symbol Substitution Test for attention.
Participants mean age ± SD was 21.07 ± 1.1. Both the groups had significant improvement in STM (MG mean difference ± SD=-2.53 ± 1.06, p-value <0.001; AG mean difference ± SD=-5.86 ± 3.28, p-value <0.001) and attention (MG mean difference ± SD=-7.40 ± 3.98, p-value <0.001; AG mean difference ± SD=-26.64 ± 7.22, pvalue <0.001). Between groups comparison showed significant differences in both STM and attention (p-value <0.002 and <0.001 respectively). In addition, AG exhibited much improvement compared to MG in terms of BDIII score (MG mean difference ± SD=4.60 ± 1.40 vs AG mean difference ± SD=8.71 ± 6.60, p-value=0.038).
Both meditation and aerobic exercise can improve the short term memory and attention in young adults with depression but aerobic exercise seems to bring more beneficial effects as indicated by between group differences. Further study with large sample size needs to be carried out for making generalization.