Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Exercise Makes You Smarter

Back in 1999 the Howard Hughes Medical Institute published some interesting data:

Running boosts the growth of new nerve cells.

 “These observations support the idea that exercise enhances the formation and survival of new nerve cells as well as the connections between nerve cells, which in turn improves long-term memory.”
Terrence J. Sejnowski

Since then other research has shown that aerobic exercise stimulates neurogenesis in the hippocampus

In short, exercise grows brain cells.

A german study in 2008 raised the point that in casual observation "not all athletes are necessarily smarter than more sedentary fellows".

OK, so maybe we need more research to learn where the causal link is; in what way does exercise affect the brain, and do these changes necessarily result in becoming more smart.

Here's a few studies that begin to reveal how exercise specifically makes your brain cells grow.

Warning; You may want to run before reading these.. might need the extra brain cells..

So aside from wordy studies done on mice, is there any indication that exercise will help humans learn?

In 2008 John Ratey MD published his book SPARK, in which he takes readers on a fascinating journey that explains how exercise makes us smarter, and there are plenty of practical examples.

Here's a short CBC News documentary, "Brain Gains" (about 15 min) on how teacher Allison Cameron at Saskatoon School City Park Colligate put her students on treadmills for the first half of math class, and got better learning results from her students:

Also in the book Ratey talks about what now is a famous reference for this topic; how schools in Naperville changed their curriculum so that students could exercise before exams and just prior to classes where their academic performance was lower.

The results?  Better learning and better test scores.

Here's another great reference, Active Living Research published in 2007;

"Students whose time in PE or school-based physical activity was increased maintained or improved their grades and scores on standardized achievement tests, even though they received less classroom instructional time than students in control groups."

Getting a good nights sleep also increases cognition.  

Want a good score on an exam?  Workout before class, make it continuous moderate to vigorous aerobic activity at least 20 minutes in duration (but don't go until you're totally wiped out, that defeats the purpose!)

Workout within two hours prior to an exam.

Go to sleep and wake at the same time every day, and don't mess with the sleep cycle by staying out late on weekends just prior to exams.

Happy studies!

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