Are you a ‘couch potato’? We hope your answer is a resounding ‘no’ because exercise and learning go hand in hand.
Researchers have established that exercise – an effective drug for the brain – helps memory and thinking. The benefits of exercise come from its ability to lower insulin resistance and inflammation, and it stimulates the release of growth factors. Exercise also improves mood and sleep, and it reduces stress and anxiety. Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to intellectual impairment.
So, how does exercise help memory and thinking, you may ask. Experiments on children with attention deficit disorder confirmed that exercise improved learning on various levels.
We have listed examples:
- It increases heart rate that pumps more oxygen to the brain.
- It helps to release hormones needed for the growth of brain cells that are required for memory and learning.
- It promotes brain flexibility by stimulating the growth of new connections between cells in the many areas of the brain necessary for learning new information.
- It also improves a person’s mindset by raising alertness, attention and motivation.
The brain is an adaptable organ that can be shaped by working on it, the same way as a muscle can be shaped by lifting weights. The more you use it, the stronger and more flexible it becomes.
Aerobic exercise – the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping – is like taking an antidepressant because it balances the neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain. Researchers also noted that regular aerobic exercise boosted the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.
Exercises that help the brain include:
- aerobic activities – jogging, riding a bike, playing a sport that involves sprinting or running, swimming;
- skills activities – rock climbing, yoga, karate, Pilates, gymnastics, skateboarding, rollerblading;
- activities that combine aerobic and skills movements – tennis is a good example;
- skills activities that pair you with another person — ballroom dancing, judo and fencing, for example – help to activate the brain and the muscles.