We all know exercise is good for the body, gets you thin, keeps the blood pumping, builds up muscle etc. blah, blah, blah but it can also make you a super, smart evil genius...Mwahaha! Err...I mean, it can help make you a little smarter and you don't necessarily have to use your added brain power for evil. Anyway, anyone who knows a bit of basic science will tell you about a 'runners high' where, after a certain period of activity, the brain releases endorphins that make you feel all darn great but it has also been proven that certain exercises can help the old mind muscle flex its stuff, as well as your brain, can benefit from a bit of exercise. In fact, it has been found that the brains of people who regularly exercise actually look different to those of couch potatoes so here we look at how some exercise help out the head.
1. Game Sports - Spatial Awareness
Sport, in general, can make you a better decision maker as it gets the blood flowing through to the anterior frontal regions and thus things like your map reading skills may improve because of it. Game sports, such as cricket or baseball, can also help you with your spatial awareness as it makes your mind think about how your body moves through the given playing space as well as the approach of objects from various different angles.
Activities like surfing can also help with this.
2. Yoga - Processing Information, Memory & Stress Reduction
Often lumbered with a sort of airy, lightheaded approach to life, Yoga is actually a very useful tool for learning and stress relief. By stimulating the frontal lobe, Yoga helps with your ability to integrate thoughts and emotions process them in a meaningful way. A University of Illinois study found that a 20-minute session of yoga improved the ability of their students to process information just half an hour after the session thus leading them to remember more as well. In terms of stress, The University of Harvard actually found that Yoga physically changes the brain and reduces the size amygdalae, the region that processes fear and anxiety.
This meant that respondents are more likely to be able to cope with their emotions, processing them in a far healthier manner.
3. Interval Training & Cycling - Addiction & Cravings
Studies have shown that craving control can be improved by interval training. By stimulating the hypothalamus, cravings are lessened and those with addictions, such as smokers, are more relaxed. The same case applies to moderate exercise in the heat for food cravings as in heat, exercise creates less of the 'hunger hormone' ghrelin.
Also, by replacing the endorphin rush of rewarding a craving with the endorphin rush of exercise, the brain begins to become reprogrammed for exercise over other vices.
4. Circuit Training - Attention To Detail
Because of the varied nature of circuit training, it fires up several areas of the brain including the prefrontal cortex, the parietal lobe, and the cerebellum.
These all function together to aid brain activity but also help with attention to detail as the brain becomes aware of how to switch between tasks and use spatial awareness to deal with oncoming obstacles and tasks.
5. Aerobics - Verbal Memory
Forever got words stuck on the tip of your tongue but can't quite seem to force them out? Try a bit of aerobics as it has been found to improve the work of memory in the hippocampus part of your brain.
This may not seem like a truly necessary function but it can help with coming across as intelligent and well educated as you will become less likely to mix your words up.
6. Weight Lifting - Multi-Tasking & Problem Solving
Two one-hour sessions per week of weight lifting can stimulate activity in the prefrontal cortex. This can improve executive function and associative memory where the brain connects two things together, for example, putting a name to a face.
It can also improve your attention span making you more likely to focus and remember information anyway and has been linked with staving off Alzheimer's.