Get Smart: Start Exercising
We all know exercise is beneficial and important to our bodies for many reasons. Indeed, medical organizations around the world tout numerous benefits of exercise, including everything from the obvious weight loss, to even improving your sex life. But a long-standing debate exists over whether or not exercise can actually increase your cognitive function, essentially making you smarter.
The Great Exercise Debate
Over the years, arguments have been made on both sides. Some claim that exercise does indeed improve cognitive function, while others argue that any improved cognitive function seeming to come as a result of exercise, is really only the placebo effect of people believing exercise would make them smarter.
While numerous studies suggest that exercise does improve cognitive function, even going so far as to cite children born to active pregnant mothers are smarter than those born to mothers who didn’t exercise during pregnancy, researchers have had a hard time overcoming the debate that any increased cognitive function is a result of simply believing exercise makes you smarter.
It’s a worthy debate. Countless studies have been done on the effects our thoughts have on actual behavior. The Mayo Clinic for example, credits mere positive thinking with major benefits such as: increased life span, lower depression rates, greater resistance to the common cold, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, better psychological and physical well-being, and more. So merely thinking and believing exercise makes us smarter might actually give us the result we expect.
Proof of Increased Cognitive Function
However, a recent study published by PLOS One claims to provide evidence to substantiate the belief that exercise really does make you smarter, and not just because you believe it will.
To conduct the study, 171 participants were selected online, both men and women, 72 of which didn’t exercise regularly and 99 of which did. Half of the participants were asked to speculate on how much a regular walking program performed three times a week would increase their cognitive function. The other half of participants were asked the same question but about a stretching and toning program. Studies in the past have suggested that walking can increase cognitive ability while stretching and toning had little effect.
However, the respondents believed just the opposite, that a stretching and toning program would increase cognitive abilities more than a walking regimen would. The results of this study conclude that any improvements to executive control and memory, as well as enhanced spatial abilities and processing speed that result from exercise, are indeed not a placebo effect. If they were, the study argues, those who participated in the study would have likely expected walking to increase their cognitive functions more than the stretching and toning exercises would.
How to Respond
In fairness, this was a relatively small study, and it is not undeniable proof that exercising does make you smarter. It does however, give further evidence to suggest that, increasing your cognitive functions may soon be undeniably listed among the many benefits of exercise.
The debate will continue among medical professionals and researchers until undeniable proof is provided and substantiated. However, both groups can agree on one thing, exercise, whether resulting from a placebo effect or a genuine cognitive improvement, does make you smarter. And if that is truly the case, it’s time to start sweating.