If you’ve visited the MQ Sport and Aquatic Centre (aka “the gym”) this year, you’ve probably noticed the billboard-sized poster at the entrance, which declares: “Strong body, strong mind”.
But can exercise really strengthen your mind or make you “smarter”? This week, the Learning Skills team looks at whether or not exercise is a helpful study strategy!
When assignment and study deadlines begin to pile up, our first reaction is usually to drop everything to get the work done. It’s not uncommon to find yourself spending a lot of time being still; sitting at a desk/on the couch/in the Library. Research tells us that being sedentary for extended periods can have negative effects on blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and mood. It can even cause your glutes to atrophy!
The good news is that exercise can help you study more productively. Did you know that there’s a positive relationship between physical exercise and academic performance? Or that exercise improves cognitive function? Or—and here’s the kicker—that students who follow a program of regular exercise are more likely to graduate from university? According to Basso and Suzuki (2016/2017), exercise can help you:
- increase your attention span
- improve your working memory
- make better decisions
- solve problems more efficiently.
Even more importantly, exercise produces neurobiological effects which improve your capacity to learn. It contributes to:
- increasing the volume of the hippocampus (a part of the brain involved with memory and learning)
- protecting the brain against aging
- promoting neurogenesis (the production of new neurons) (Gomez-Pinilla & Hillman, 2013).
So, if you don’t move much, and you’d like to improve your health and your brain performance, consider adding regular exercise to your study schedule. Drop by the MQ gym and chat to the friendly staff there about taking a class or playing social sport. Or just get outside and take a walk. When it comes to physical activity, something is always better than nothing!
Do you want to know more?
- Check out the MQ Campus Facebook page for more tips about exercise and study over the next few weeks.
- Are you interested in reading more about exercise and brain health? This reading list is a good place to get started.
Basso, J., & Suzuki, W. (2016/2017). The Effects of Acute Exercise on Mood, Cognition, Neurophysiology, and Neurochemical Pathways: A Review. Brain Plasticity, 2, 127-152. doi: 10.3233/bpl-160040
Gomez-Pinilla, F., & Hillman, C. (2013). Influence of Exercise on Cognitive Abilities. Comprehensive Physiology, 3(1), 403–428. doi:10.1002/cphy.c110063