Exercise for your mind – Study Tip #5
“Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning,” says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey. “Even 10 minutes of activity changes your brain.”*
What a lofty statement. But when you scratch the surface, there is plenty of evidence suggesting a link between healthy body and healthy mind.
Exercise improves learning
Your brain is fried. You’ve been up since 5am squeezing in that one last formula. But you’re well slept, listening to soothing sounds, and eating and drinking the right brain fuel, so you should be performing at your peak, right?
Perhaps there is something else.
Physical exercise increases the flow of oxygen to the brain, enhancing energy production and waste removal to keep you fresh.
It also increases the level of brain chemicals known as growth factors, which help replenish brain cells and establish new connections that help us learn.
In addition, exercise that challenges hand-eye or physical coordination, or those you’ve never tried before, place further strain on your brain muscles which helps them expand and grow. A team of German researchers found high school students who had completed ten-minutes of complicated fitness routines scored better on high-attention tasks than those who did 10 minutes of regular activity. Notably, those who did not exercise scored the worst.*
Exercise to happiness
We will all go through ups and downs in life, particularly when competing deadlines, assignments and exams hit home. But it may be possible to exercise your way to happiness. Physically active people are better able to recover from mild depression, while being physically active has been correlated with good mental health as you age.
What sort of exercise?
The best bit: it doesn’t need to be a marathon, thousand-stair climb or intense spin class. Anything that elevates the heart rate will oxygenate the mind.
Walking is great – it is low strain so muscles don’t deplete extra oxygen and glucose, and it can help clear your head to allow for reflection and reinforcement of new neural paths.
When you start exerting more impact through running, for instance, it further stimulates the production of growth factors, and exercises that involve coordination like football, yoga, Thai-chi or dancing are particularly beneficial for cognitive function.
Finally, be cautious of over-exercising if you want to perform at your cognitive best. It can drain your body’s resources, depriving the brain of the glucose and chemicals that drive performance.
Tell us what you think. How do you fit exercise around study?
Can you identify improved mental abilities through exercise?
Want more study tips? Find out more about how food, drink, sleeping patterns and relaxing sounds can enhance your concentration.