You’ve heard the hype: ‘supplements’ that boost brain performance, games that improve your IQ, toys for toddlers that’ll make them the next Mozart. Although some companies may claim an extreme brain boost at an extreme price, the verdict is still out on if the products offer a real boost to brain performance apart from the placebo effect. Much to the delight of such product peddlers, the lack of concrete research doesn’t detract the people who are driven to gain any advantage they can in the race to achieve more.
Research and the Proven Way to Boost Cognitive Functioning
Reading ‘Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School’ by John Medina, I came across a study at Nihon Fukushi University in Japan testing the benefits of jogging on mental performance, such as memory, perception and thinking over a 12-week period. The researchers, lead by Dr. Kisou Kubota, found that jogging significantly improved the mental performance of the group that had been asked to jog, while the performance of the group that had not participated in the jogging remained the same. They also found that once the jogging regimen stopped, so did the benefits of the mental performance boost.
Another study at the National Institute of Aging showed that exercise ‘has profound benefits for brain function.’ By keeping an active lifestyle and complementing it with a healthy diet, this not only boosts the performance of the brain but also delays the effects of aging.
Exercise also improves grades in school-aged children
A National Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that students who do not get sufficient physical activity are much more likely to receive poor grades in school compared to students that engage in physical activity. (Physical activity in this survey was defined as activity that gets children to sweat at least 5 or more days a week.)
Slow Down Cognitive Decline in Your Later Years
Long-term research study was conducted on elderly women aged 71-80 and found that women who were the most active (over 1:30 hours of walking a week) saw significantly better cognitive functioning than that of their more sedentary counterparts. This is also true for elderly males, as a study found that males aged 71-93 who walked more than 2 miles (3.2 km) a day were around 2 times less likely to develop dementia than males who walked less than 0.25 miles (0.4 km) a day!
How much exercise do we need to improve brain performance?
So you might ask, “How much exercise do I need to get the benefits?” A study from the University of Georgia found that moderate exercise of up to 60 minutes improves brain performance. On the other hand, extremely strenuous and extended exercise will lower brain performance for the short period one is tired and dehydrated. Studies have also shown that exercise in short bursts of 10 minutes 3 times a day yielded the same results as one 30 minute exercise session to improve cardiovascular health. With the improvement of the cardiovascular system, more fresh oxygen is introduced into both the body and brain, thus helping boost brain performance.
You will also want to consider your physical condition before you begin or up your exercise schedule. If you’re uninterested in jogging, try walking around the block for 15-30 minutes 2 to 3 times a week and if you’re just starting off, aim to break a light sweat. The key is to start moving your body and get your blood flowing to your brain.
Do I have time to exercise?
When we’re hit with a last minute work project, a call from a friend to hang out, your child’s science project that’s due tomorrow or any number of things that could happen and do happen, exercise and sleep usually take the back seat. Although a regular exercise schedule is ideal, if you’re on a time crunch, use lunchtime to get some exercise in. Don’t want to get too sweaty while exercising? Try these exercises without breaking a sweat and if you do, here are 4 ways to combat sweat. Use the often-missed opportunities to get moving. Do you need to go to the water cooler? Take the long way and get an extra few steps in. Get creative, move your body and get smarter!
Many other benefits of exercise
It’s been said time and time again that exercise has benefits beyond just losing weight. But to drive home the importance, here are some more benefits of exercise:
- Fight depression
- Improve body functioning
- Improved mood
- Stronger muscles and bones
- Boost your energy
- Get better sleep
And much more!
- Exercise has been empirically proven to improve cognitive performance in every age group.
- Exercise significantly helps fight dementia in your later years.
- Exercise regularly for benefits. Once you stop exercising, the benefits will start diminishing
- Exercise with your physical condition in mind. Too much is too much. Know your limitations.
- If you haven’t started exercising, get started. The key is to get your body moving.