We all intuitively understand the profound importance of physical activity for our health and well-being. As little as 150 minutes of weekly exercise can help us maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and lead to happiness.
Interestingly, research also suggests that exercise improve the brain function. More specifically, physical activity might help us learn new information more effectively and retain it longer.
Let’s explore the three ways in which exercise can achieve that.
1. It Can Improve Alertness and Focus
Have you ever tried learning something when you felt tired? You would spend countless hours over the book, desperately trying to absorb knowledge so you can do well on an upcoming test, only to feel confused and discouraged.
While many factors affect our alertness and ability to focus, exercise has proven to be an effective tool we can use (1). Research suggests that even short bouts of activity (such as taking a walk) can lead to significant improvements in our mood, alertness, and energy levels (2, 3).
As a result, exercise could profoundly and positively impact our ability to study and retain information.
2. It Can Make People More Motivated
Experts have been coining the idea of keystone habits for a while. The idea with these keystone habits is that certain behaviors can serve as pillars for positive change in our lives. In the case of exercise, physical activity can be a foundation that motivates us to improve other aspects of our lives.
For example, a person who starts exercising can feel motivated to improve their eating habits to avoid having that effort go to waste. Over time, that person can begin improving other aspects of life and feel more motivated to learn and excel in life.
The effect is more challenging to track and back up with hard data, but it is something to consider.
3. It Can Promote the Connection Between More Nerve Cells
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to alter its physical structure by developing new connections and re-organizing neural networks (4).
The brain’s ability to alter itself is one of the reasons why the organ is so incredible and why we are capable of mastering such a wide range of subjects and skills.
Luckily for us, physical activity promotes neuroplasticity, allowing the brain to form new and strong connections between nerve cells and networks (5). The mechanisms behind these effects are vast and complicated, but researchers suggest that exercise leads to:
- Improved memory, learning, and cognition (6)
- Improved motor control
Research also finds that aerobic exercise can increase the size of the hippocampus, prefrontal and temporal cortex (5).
The Bottom Line
It’s no secret that regular physical activity is excellent for us. Fitness makes us stronger, more functional, and better able to tackle everyday tasks. Physical movement also improves various health markers, helps us maintain a healthy weight, and reduces the risk of chronic disease.
The great news is that exercise is also remarkable for the brain health, as it can improve alertness, concentration, motivation, memory, and more. As a result, our ability to absorb and retain information improves.
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