In a way, the brain is like a muscle. You have to exercise it in order for it to grow albeit not in the same way as muscle growth. You can read books, converse with people, and engage in other mentally stimulating activities, such as painting.
But did you know that performing physical exercises can also translate to mental exercises? Each time you engage in, say, high-intensity interval training at Planet Fitness, you’re also engaging your brain. Here’s how it happens.
The hippocampus is the area of the brain with a strong response to aerobic exercise, as well as the core area responsible for learning and memory functions. Studies have shown, too, that the hippocampus grows as the body becomes healthier (i.e., fitter).
By deduction, the increase in cardiovascular fitness can boost memory capability. You may even find that studying after exercising makes it easier to absorb information more. Just remember not to overdo on the exercise since vigorous exercise can also increase stress levels resulting in reduced memory capacity, not to mention that you will be too tired to study anything.
Physical exercise has also been proven to improve your mental focus and, thus, the ability to stay on the task. Studies conducted on children and adults show that alternating between periods of lessons with aerobics exercise aid in better executive control. This means more adept at multitasking, remembering and manipulating information, and ignoring distractions, which are crucial in improved results.
Plus, it doesn’t even take strenuous exercise to reap the benefit of improved concentration! Just 10 minutes of playful activity, such as bouncing two balls simultaneously or shooting a few hoops, can increase your attention span afterwards.
Runner’s high and endorphin rush. No matter what it’s called, the feelings of elation that comes after a strenuous exercise session cannot be denied. Yes, you will feel tired but it’s the good kind of tired like you can take on the world.
This is the reason why people with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues are advised to engage in moderate-intensity exercise – or at the least, in any physical activity that turns their attention from negative thoughts to more positive ones.
The likes of Thoreau and Nietzsche said that walking gives wings to their creativity by boosting their imagination. Walking seems to clear the head of the distractions that muddle it so that you’re better able to create works of art, whether it’s a painting or an article.
Older adults also benefit from moderate exercise, especially in slowing age-related cognitive decline. Just 30-40 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, is beneficial to mental health.
The bottom line: Get your move on and get your brain the exercise it needs!