Exercise helps us learn. But how?

We have all heard that exercise is good for our health but did you also know that it can help you learn and think?

Exercise improves learning on 3 levels:

  • It optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness, attention, and motivation
  • It prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the basis for logging in new information
  • It spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus (the centre of emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system*.)

The best time to complete a task that demands sharp thinking and complex anaylsis is immediately AFTER you finish exercising, as this is when blood flow shifts back to the centre, away from your arms and legs.

An experiment in 2007 showed that cognitive (acquiring knowledge) flexibility improves after just one 35 minute treadmill session.

In this study half of the group exercised and half watched a movie.

The movie watchers showed no change, but the treadmill group improved their processing speed and cognitive flexibility after just ONE workout!

So if you have an important afternoon brainstorming session scheduled, exam to study for or a demanding day ahead, going for a short, intense run before your task is a smart idea.

* Autonomic nervous system: the part of the nervous system responsible for the control of bodily functions not consciously directed, such as breathing, the heartbeat, and digestive processes. Your nervous system is protected by your spinal bones.