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A Workout for the Brain

A Workout for the Brain

Sometimes questions are not as straightforward as they seem.  The one in the image above is an example. If you are considering just the word "blue" the answer is one. If you are considering words that are rendered in blue, it is two. But if you are considering both, the correct answer is three.

Questions of this sort were used in a recent study that linked brain function to exercise. Subjects were shown words that represented colors but were rendered in a color that might not match the word. How quickly they were able to respond with the correct color was an indication of brain function. They found brain function to be correlated with aerobic fitness levels. Similar studies in rats have indicated that slow, steady aerobic workouts were more conducive to neurological development than either sprints or weightlifting. The key may be a protein called cathepsin B, which is produced by muscles during a workout and which appears to generate new cells and connections in the part of the brain associated with memory.

Workouts have been associated with intelligence, focus, euphoria and a lack of stress. All of these things can help improve exam performance. But the idea that strength and sprint workouts may not be providing the same benefit can be troublesome for professional exam candidates who are trying to balance a heavy work load with a study plan.

Some of the obvious answers (i.e. sprinting from meeting to meeting) are also ruled out. Not to mention it is odd to arrive at a meeting completely winded. So what is a busy candidate to do?

Start by walking to work or during lunch hours. A brisk walk can get the juices flowing, and the blood pumping to the brain. It might not be the most effective aerobic workout, but it may help avoid stinking up your dress clothes.

Another option, for those who enjoy strength training, is to turn it into its own aerobic workout. A Crossfit style beatdown, though, is likely to be too much on the anaerobic side. Instead simply try to keep up a rhythm to weight training, possibly with lower weight. The idea would be to stay moving at a steady pace for 20-30 minutes with an elevated heart rate without feeling short of breath.

Finally, you could try to balance your workouts with social activities such as group sports, or even by playing with your pets or children. By making it more fun, and less of a chore, it may become a welcome break instead of another task on the to-do list.

Are workouts a part of your study plan? Tell me why (or why not) in the comments.

Listen Up

Listen Up

What's in a Name?

What's in a Name?