Our ability to learn and recall essential information depends on so many factors beyond just a good teacher (though that certainly helps!) How much sleep we get matters. What we eat matters. Believe it or not, just focusing on a single task matters. With factors as disparate as doodling and laughing impacting performance when it counts, who would be surprised to learn that a little exercise goes a long way towards improving learning?
A strong framework supporting the beneficial effects of physical activity on cognition has already been established. In 2013, researchers nailed down a possible reason why that exercise is good for the brain, declaring that a molecule produced during exercise boosts brain health. Combine magical learning molecules with the other ample mental benefits of physical exercise, and you can understand why sports hold such a special place in school environments. The question any self=respecting study hackers should ask, however, is this: “How much exercise is needed to improve cognition?”
Surprisingly, according to researchers from the University of Western Ontario, even ten minutes of exercise can make a difference:
“Previous work has shown that a single-bout of moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise improves task-specific activity within frontoparietal networks and produces a short-term ‘boost’ to executive-related cognitive control – an effect in healthy young adults that is reported to be selective to exercise durations of 20 min or greater. The present study sought to determine whether such a ‘boost’ extends to an exercise duration as brief as 10 min.”
The study itself examined whether a ten minute interval of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise modulated post-exercise pro- and antisaccade control. What does that even mean?
“…Our results in combination with other recent work show that a 10-min exercise session can enhance the activity and/or attentional properties of executive-related control mechanisms in both young and older participants.”
Obviously, long-term fitness regimens lead to long-term fitness, which offers far too many benefits top count. But for immediate impact, even ten minutes of the right aerobic exercise can yield some cognitive advantages. Anyone who benefits from learning–which is to say, everyone–might consider exploring how a little more exercise in their life might lead to better learning.