In the New Scientist, Teal Burrell reports on findings that “specific exercise regimes can fine-tune your mind”.
The article states that science is discovering there are numerous ways exercise makes you smart and research is uncovering specific effects related to different kinds of exercise.
For adults, aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling, is linked to improvements in memory and strengthening exercise, such as lifting weights, improves reasoning, planning, problem solving and multitasking.
Exercising in the heat and interval training have both been linked to reduction in appetite, while exercising in the cold increases it. Also, any type of even moderate exercise can help control cravings.
In children, offering an opportunity to run around will help improve their ability to focus. A 20 minute walk, sprints or skipping have immediate effects on attention levels, reasoning, planning, problem solving and multitasking, leading to higher achievement in maths and reading tests.
Although scientists agree children should have at least 1 hour of physical exercise a day, research is showing this may be better spaced out throughout the day and advocates a “whole school approach” to fitness.
Research has also found that training for a specific sport or to improve Fundamentals will help children achieve on tests which require high levels of concentration.
Physical fitness generally, in children, can lead to lasting cognitive benefits, helping them turn thoughts into actions and switch easily between tasks.
And scientists have found just a couple of hours of activity of the type often enjoyed by children, such as climbing trees, crawling along a beam, running barefoot or any activity where the child must balance and think at the same time, has a dramatic effect on working memory. This is the ability to hold on to information and manipulate it in our minds at the same time. It prioritises and processes information, allowing us to ignore what is irrelevant and work with what is important.
All of the scientists agree it is never too early, nor too late, to start and that benefits are seen right into old age. And if you are not sure which type of exercise to pick? Do something you enjoy!