Could exercise make us smarter?
Could Exercise make you smarter?
For a long time, scientists have been researching exercise and its effect on emotional and physical factors, looking particularly at stress, heart conditions and bone density.
More recently exercise has been studied along side our mental functioning. It is obvious that the mind and the body are connected and good functioning of our cognitive processes have a positive effect on our bodies, and the same visa versa. So is there a link here?
Our cognitive processes relate to how we think and process thoughts through our life experience. How we solve problems through rational thinking, using our knowledge, memory and learning. Healthy thinking is being able to process thoughts without negative bias or lingering on a perceived problem using adaptive thinking based on evidence and not assumptions. This helps us make more informed decisions based on knowledge.
There have been a number of studies that have identified a link between exercise and improved cognitive functioning in older people. There was a study in 2004 that found that exercise improved the cognitive functioning in the elderly who presented with initial reduced mental functioning and dementia. This was drawn from over thirty years of data and information involving some 2,020 test subjects. It was found that the subjects who exercised on a more regular basis had much stronger mental functioning than those who did not exercise.
So, what about other age groups? Well, according to a recent Canadian study on cardiovascular disease, and reported in the Wall street journal, it can can have the same desired effects. It was a relatively small study involving and focused on adults who were overweight or lead a sedentary lifestyle. They were assessed and then put onto twice weekly exercise regime or cycling and light weight training and this was monitored for four months.
It wasn’t long before there were visible results in fitness and physical improvements. Increased fat loss and a better body mass index. Along side the physical improvements there were surprising findings in improved mental functioning on tests, reporting that their findings were “signifiant and clinical”.
Even exercising for as little as ten minutes can have a great effect on your brain. According to Harvard medical school psychiatrist John Ratey, regular exercise boosts the amount of brain chemicals known as ‘growth factors’. These are responsible for developing new brain cells and also responsible for creating pathways between these cells for greater cognitive functioning so we can learn and retain information.
According to a German research project, high school pupils faired far better on high attentions tasks following a ten minute fitness exercise. Their tests implicated that the physical activity, which included dance and tennis, greatly lifts the attention span. The more complicated the physical activity the greater the results, improving our learning processes.
There was a recent study from Canada which reported that even moderate exercise in the elderly, such as cleaning, cooking and walking to the shops, helped them score higher on written mental tests than those who were less mobile.
We all know that exercise has a wide spectrum of positive effects such as weight loss, physical health, improved mood, feeling more energised, deeper sleep and an overall improvement in our contentment in life. The physical improvements are all well known, but now there is another improvement to take into account too, our mental function. So get motivated to exercise and see for yourself, the wonderful effects on your body and mind.
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