Not only can you keep your brain in shape with reading and school work, but like your muscles, your brain benefits from daily physical exercise. Mental tasks keep the connections in your grey matter sparking and active, but you probably didn’t know about - or highly underestimate – the positive effects a solid session of cardio and bench pressing can have for your brain.
Ever go on a long walk, and have a sudden idea or epiphany occur to you? That might have been because your body and brain were actively working together, helping you to solve a problem. You can have many more moments like that if you participate in extracurricular activities that involve physical exercise.
As your heart rate goes up, it pumps more blood into the brain and powers it with more oxygen. When the heart and muscles are working at a high capacity, they release hormones that run up to the brain and feed it. This helps the brain grow more cells.
Brain cells can only grow or make new connections - they are some of the only cells that cannot divide and reproduce. That’s why it’s so important to take care of the ones you have!
Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to rewire and modify its connections. It’s the very reason why we can mentally grow, learn, mature, and retain memories. Exercise heightens this process by stimulating the growth of connections throughout critical regions of your
brain. In fact, physical activity can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and can improve cognitive function for patients with mild cases.
Physical activity has such a strong impact on brain performance, many people take up jogging for the “runner’s high” that reduces levels of stress hormones as effectively as anti-depression medication. Once you start a lifestyle of exercise, you just might become an addict!
A study from Stockholm further demonstrates how running not only combats depression, it causes the cells in the hippocampus to grow - the brain region that lets us learn and retain memories.
How to use exercise to help you study
You can see changes in your mental abilities as soon as you drop the weights or step off the treadmill sweating and panting. A study from The Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia shows us that it takes only 20 minutes of moderate body motion to produce demonstrable results for increased memory retention and improved information
Here are the best physical exercises for your brain:
- Aerobic exercises that work the heart and lungs, such as jogging, swimming, or cycling, for extended periods of time increases the amount of oxygen to your brain; it also produces proteins that strengthen the brain’s information processing capacity.
- Exercise in the morning before school or work - the brain has just received a replenishing rest, and once physical activity has driven up brain activity, you’ll have better focus to
study and tackle complex problems the rest of the day.
- Use circuit training exercises at the gym - they put your body and brain through intense endurance exercises, driving up your heart rate and redirecting your focus.
- If you don’t like the gym and you think exercise is a waste of time, try dancing or martial arts - both require heavy physical and mental involvement, and will heighten your cognitive
strength more effectively than a regular workout routine.
Before you study or begin an assignment, take twenty or thirty minutes to clear your mind with a jog around the neighborhood or some kickboxing. If it’s late afternoon and you’re feeling tired, a quick round of pushups or jumping jacks will awaken the heart and provide a boost of mental energy.