For centuries humans have obsessed over finding a quick and easy way to boost brainpower. This is especially true on a college campus where marathon Rock Band sessions and frat parties make cramming a necessary evil.
Most try to maximize studying efficiency by barricading themselves in the library armed with the modern elixirs of intelligence — a Red Bull in one hand and a double-shot espresso in the other.
But instead of frying your nerves with stimulants, you should take time away from studying to exercise.
If you just cringed at the sight of that word, you are not alone. For non-fitness nuts, exercise can feel like getting a root canal at an Ashlee Simpson concert.
But the good news is that you can significantly improve your memory after just 10 minutes of running. That’s right — 10 minutes. Only a fraction of the time it takes to scroll through all of your ex’s recent photos on Facebook.
Research shows that learning improvements were most dramatic after two three-minute sprints — even more so than after a brisk 40-minute jog.
This is because high amounts of brain-derived neurotrophic factor are released during intense exercise. BDNF prevents facts stored as long-term memory from decaying and keeps them fresh until test time.
Although these immediate benefits are only provided through intense workouts, do not fret, long-distance buffs. Twelve weeks of moderate exercise training provides the same memory improvements. Plus, it has the added benefits of strengthening heart muscle and lowering blood pressure.
If you still think the torture of exercise is unbearable, you should start working out with others, which increases your tolerance of pain. Perhaps a quick run might be the perfect way to kick off a late night study group session.
But why stop at exercise when there are other easy ways to boost your IQ? For instance, foods like grapes, chocolate and tea enhance the memory benefits of exercise. These sound much more appealing than the classic study snack of Funyuns and a Monster energy drink.
New evidence indicates that the benefits of exercise and healthy eating are long-lasting. Both exercise and the Mediterranean diet reduce cognitive decline in old age and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
This means you substitute red meat, chicken, potatoes and butter with fish, veggies and olive oil to enhance the nerve growth provided by staying fit.
Admittedly, in today’s fast-paced world, it is hard to keep an eye on how your behaviors might impact you down the road. But if all it takes is a bit of exercise to increase my chances of becoming as suave as Hugh Hefner in my 80s, I am more than happy to put in the time.
For now, it would be wise to take advantage of exercise’s immediate brain-enhancing qualities while studying.
Even before its perks were known, Thomas Jefferson spoke of exercise’s virtues, saying, “Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading.”
No wonder his Declaration turned out all right.
Andrew Moon is a second-year School of Medicine
student from Durham. Contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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