Contrary to popular belief, research suggests that not all procrastination is bad. In fact, hitting the gym before the books may actually help commit the dreaded Krebs cycle to memory.
Conventional health advice consistently demonstrates that working out leads to physical gains (in particular, a “Baywatch” body), but many are surprised to discover that brawn and brains can reinforce each other.
Exercise has been shown to have positive memory-boosting effects. Physiologically, this occurs due to an enlargement of the hippocampus, the region of the brain that that controls memory and navigation.
In a recent study published in Health Psychology, researchers at the University of Hamburg observed a correlation between physical activity and increased brainpower. Researchers analyzed the effects of exercise on middle-aged adults by comparing inactive individuals to those participating in an exercise program.
The active subjects either did cardio or stretching workouts before taking a memory test. While the cardio group that cycled for 45 minutes displayed the best heart health overall, both active groups performed better on the memory test than the physically inactive group. Specifically, the cyclist group retained information better but the stretchers outperformed all participants on a concentration-based exam.
In a 2007 Columbia University study, researchers found that physical activity promotes exercise-induced neurogenesis, the process of nerve cell generation that is vital for memory and learning. In observing this, scientists noted greater blood circulation in the brains of active, wheel-sprinting mice when compared to less active mice in cages.
“In mice, we can say that the benefit of exercise is clearly through neurogenesis,” said neuroscientist Scott Small, M.D. in response to his group’s findings. “Because we see the same patterns of hippocampal changes in humans, we can then infer that the same mechanism is mediating the human effects.”
Perhaps these processes can help explain a study recently published in the journal PLoS One by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
The results suggested that soccer players have a more enhanced ‘executive system’ than the general public. The executive system controls a multitude of the brain’s functions, including cognitive processes like memory, attention and problem-solving. In fact, researchers found that the leading athletes in the study generally scored among the top five percent of all participants.
Gauchos, you can have it all. Brains and beauty are not only within your grasp, but may just reinforce each other. So attention bookworms: If you aren’t actively engaged in a regular exercise regimen, add this to your list of incentives to finally get started.