We all know that exercise is key to improving a wide spectrum of physical attributes. From cardiovascular fitness to strength and flexibility. But what does it do to your brain? Can exercise really make you smarter? It seems a bit too good to be true, so we dug through a load of dusty science journals to find out for you.
Exercise improves decision making
A study published in the journal Psychophysiology shows that exercise causes more oxygen to flow through your brain’s anterior frontal regions (the region involved with both decision making and memory retention). The study went on to prove that subjects who exercise outperform their peers on difficult cognitive tasks.
Exercise can make you a better driver and map reader
A 2013 review from the Institute of Sports Science at the University of Hildesheim in Germany, showed that regularly thinking about how your body will move through space (as happens in most forms of exercise) improves your 3D spatial awareness of other objects. In theory, this can make you better at everything from parking to putting together flat-pack furniture.
Sprinting improves memory
According to the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, study participants learned new words 20% faster after they performed sprints. As opposed to when they completed more gentle running. When you sprint, the brain’s levels of proteins and chemicals that promote growth and survival of your brain’s nerve cells increase. Which may be behind the memory boost.
Yoga gives you a processing power boost
Need to be on top form for today’s killer meeting? Try a yoga class. The University of Illinois performed tests on students who did 20 minutes of yoga, versus those who did no exercise. Those who did yoga processes information faster than those who did nothing. And best of all it only took 30 minutes after the yoga class for the benefits to kick in!
So there you have it, not only can exercise make you more intelligent, it can make you smarter in a whole bunch of different ways!