According to Dr. John J. Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, aerobic exercise transforms the brain for peak performance on all fronts. He writes that exercise improves learning on three levels: “First, it optimizes your mindset to improve alertness, attention, and motivation; second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information; and third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus.” This would mean that exercising not only helps the brain get ready to learn but also makes retaining information easier. Let us go into details on how fitness impacts the brain and student learning.
Exercise helps reduce depression and anxiety
It has been observed that exercise eases symptoms of depression and anxiety. In fact, it is so effective as antidepressant drugs that doctors are beginning to suggest it as a form of treatment. When you indulge in exercise, it slows the damage and breakdown of brain cells. It is necessary to make it a routine though as it may take many months to get the full benefits. Depression has a negative effect on learning because it cages the brain from its full potential. When symptoms of depression and anxiety are being eased off, your brain gets to be freed of processing them and be more open to learning.
Exercise makes the brain more flexible
The ability of the brain to change when one learns and experiences new things is called neuroplasticity and the younger brains are generally better than the older ones at doing this. However, for those that are older, they can have very different capacities and this is where keeping fit and indulging in aerobic exercise comes in. Scientists believe that both aerobic exercise and weight training help make the brain more flexible and plastic. Neuroplasticity is key to learning and exercises like hitting the gym regularly kick off processes that change the brain physically. As a student, having your own gym can be beneficial since you may not have the time to keep up with going to a public gym. To achieve that perfect gym of your own, you need to find the right fitness equipment for it.
Slows mental decline
When you partake in routine exercises, they help reduce mental decline. Blood flow to the brain is improved during physical activities in the form of exercise. The reason for increased blood flow is partly because the exercise makes your heart and blood vessels stronger from the larger vessels that carry blood up to your head to the tiny microvessels in the brain. The strong blood vessels and the resulting better blood flow rate appear to help stop the buildup of plaques linked to dementia. Scientists believe that this strong blood flow helps nourish the brain in a way that slows mental decline which has a good impact on student learning.
Helps you think outside the box
A lot of research has gone into the positive impacts that exercise has on the ability to organize and interpret pieces of information in a new and innovative way. How you think outside the box or connect the dots in a mystery is a function of how sharp and alert your brain is. The research suggests that exercise improves one’s executive functioning. A session of exercise can start the process and over a long time, it seems to change the structure of the white matter in your brain. This helps the brain cells connect and make them able to store and process more pieces of information faster than usual.
Helps you sleep deep
It is no longer new that when you keep up with a routine exercise, you sleep better. There are some specific exercises that make you sleep deeper. Some of them are cycling, walking in sand, or mountaineering. Deep sleep is very important to the brain as it directly contributes to how smart you can be.
Our brains are made up of billions of neurons. When we sleep, we create new synapses between those neurons. The synapses are the foundation for the action because they form the basis for our memories, decision-making, problem-solving, and other important aspects of what makes us human. Scientists in China and the U.S. have recently used microscopes to witness the formation of these new synapses in the brain during deep and sustained sleep. That would mean that it was proof that the brain builds memories during deep sleep. So, if you wish to wake up smarter and sharper, you need to sleep deeper. A more rigorous exercise routine will help you with deep sleeping.
Physical exercise affects the brain in many ways. It increases heart rate, improves the supply of oxygen to the brain, and plays a major role in the release of hormones which provide a good environment for the growth of brain cells. Research from UCLA even demonstrated that exercise increased growth factors in the brain which makes it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections. So, if you want to be smarter and retain what you learn for longer, you should start a routine exercise today.