Exercise and Your Brain

by | Dec 4, 2018 | Exercise Science, Fitness, Health

What if there was a way to improve your brain’s performance? Imagine being able to process tasks faster, remember more, and remain sharp with age. There are a lot of supplements that help with cognitive performance, but how does exercise alone impact us? When we think about exercise, we focus on the physical effects like:

  • Building muscle
  • Strengthen bones and joints
  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Regulating hormones

Little is said about what exercise does for us mentally. For example, does exercise impact our ability to think? And does exercise have an effect on the aging process of our brain, much like it does for our body?

“Research shows that fitness levels are associated with cognitive abilities”

Below are 3 benefits exercising has on your brain, like learning faster, thinking longer, and offsetting brain loss with age. Wait, take a minute before you read on, do 20 push-ups and 50 squats, you’ll understand why shortly.

3 Brain Enhancing Benefits of Exercise

1. Learn faster.

Gomez-Pinilla & Hillman (2013) found a clear correlation in cardiovascular fitness levels and cognitive benefits. Those with higher fitness levels, specifically cardiovascular, demonstrate a greater ability to learn and acquire new skills.

Basically the “fitter” you are, the easier it is for you to learn new skills. This is a big deal for kids learning life skills, adults transition careers, and really anyone wanting to gain a new skillset.

Coaches can apply this information when developing new skills or refining skills for sports. Learning skills after a fatiguing event increases the body’s ability to learn and retain skills faster.

Which brings me to my next point. I think a quick pause for 20 sit-ups is in order, again you will see why below.

2. Increase attention span.

Silva et al., (2015) found that after 5 minutes of intense exercise, children 10-16 years of age with ADHD improved their attention span by 30%.

“Physical exercises help improve children’s attention and provide greater impulse control; these additional effects appear almost immediately, as confirmed in this study, which helps the concentration of children with ADHD (Silva et al., 2015).”

After exercise, children with ADHD symptoms of at least 6 months, demonstrated to have equivalent concentration levels for tasks as individuals without the disorder.

So, exercise had an immediate effect on attention span. Why aren’t we prescribing more physical activity for kids with attention problems? It’s cheaper than medications…

Take a moment for some more squats? Just 25 and the last benefit is all yours.

3. Offset aging.

Don’t forget your grandchildren’s names- working out offsets the effects of aging. For adults 60 and over there is a link between cardiorespiratory fitness levels and age-related brain decay.

“Given that the hippocampus demonstrates disproportionately larger degradation during aging, these findings suggest that aerobic fitness may be an effective means for preventing age-related cortical decay and cognitive impairment (59) (Hotting & Roder, 2013).”

Hotting & Roder (2013) found adults with higher levels of fitness had larger sections of their brain specifically associated with spatial memory. This shows two things. One the effects of exercise are not limited to youthful ages. Two, that exercise helps maintain memory performance later in life.

I think that calls for another round of push-ups, 10 more.

Let’s wrap this up.

Learning new skills takes time, but Gomez-Pinilla & Hillman (2013) found those who have higher levels of fitness are associated with higher abilities to learn new tasks.

Remember, the second study by Silva et al., (2015), found as little as 5 mins of intense exercise stimulated attention spans in children with ADHD by as much as 30%. So, the next time you have a mentally demanding task, try a quick workout before.

The final study by Hotting & Roder (2013) observed senior adults, specifically 60-80 years of age. Performing 40 minutes of aerobic exercise increased brain mass volumes associated with spatial memory. Allowing those later in life to maintain a healthy brain and offset the effects of aging.

No matter what your age is, the benefits of exercise are real. So, stimulate your brain, grow your attention span, and limit your memory loss when you work out with us at Veritas Performance. Adults, get a free Excel training trial. Athletes, get a free perform training trial. Click here for your FREE Trial

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Gomez-Pinilla, F., & Hillman, C. (2013). “The influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities.” Comprehensive Physiology, 3(1), 403-428.

Hotting, K., & Roder, B. (2013). “Beneficial effects of physical exercise on neuroplasticity and cognition.” Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 37(9), 2243-2257.

Silva, A. P., Prado, S. O. S., Scadovelli, T. A., Boschi, S. R. M. S., Campos, L. C., & Frere, A. F. (2015) “Measurement of the Effect of Physical Exercise on the concentration of Individuals with ADHD.” 10(3): e0122119.