The research is compelling: regular, sweaty exercise helps us think better by stimulating new brain cell growth, increasing connections between cells, and improving attention.
A pulse-pounding workout acts like a cup of coffee (minus the jitters). Your heartbeat picks up, your circulation increases, you’re filled with energy, and your thinking becomes clearer and sharper. What’s more, a study published in Brain and Cognition found that after just 30 minutes of doing an easy bike ride, subjects completed a cognitive test faster than they did before exercising – and just as accurately. They also found that the brain-boosting effect lasted for at least 52 minutes after the ride.
A recent study published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology found that people who did moderate- to high-intensity strength training, showed a significant increase in how fast they processed information. “Doing a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise may offer the brain the biggest benefits,” says study co-author Jennifer Etnier, PhD, an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
If you are looking for a way to boost your studying, try incorporating daily exercise into your routine. This can be achieved in the following three ways:
- Exercise just before you study. If possible, do physical activity beforehand. Go for a jog before you sit down to study for a test or go over your class notes. Hit the gym on the way home to swim some laps so you are ready to study that evening. Doing aerobic activity gets blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your brain, which helps your brain function better.
- Try light exercise while you study. A few studies have shown that performing light exercise while studying can help recall of information. If you are going to exercise while studying, just make sure to keep it gentle. These studies found that vigorous exercise while studying may hurt recall because your brain is focused on the workout instead of the information. To try this, take your textbook or notes to the gym. Use the stationary bike while you study for at least half an hour, but make sure to keep the intensity light and gentle. You can also use an elliptical, treadmill, or stair climber
- Go to the gym right after studying. Studies have shown that exercising before and while you study are not the only times that benefit your recall and mental processing. Working out after a study session can also help boost your mental function and improve your information retention. Go for a walk or even lift weights after you study to help your brain stay active so your studying pays off.