No, this isn’t a post about the delightful sitcom about secret agent Maxwell Smart, working tirelessly against the evil forces of KAOS.
This is about new research that says getting up early and exercising can greatly improve your thinking throughout the day.
Researchers at The University of Western Australia got a group of folks to engage in 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio in the morning. They also had participants several 3 minute walking breaks throughout the day. The result of both methods was higher cognitive function in short term memory and executive decision making. In contrast, those who simply sat all day had impaired brain power.
To measure brain function, they used a computerized assessment called Cogstate four times each day. This assessment measures attention, psychomotor function, visual learning, and memory.
There’s an interesting wrinkle here: different “doses” of exercise improved different types of brain function, but no kind of exercise caused a decrease in cognitive acumen. So one could, at least theoretically, target specific cognitive functions with specially formulates exercise regimens without worrying about any other functions taking a hit.
Scientists even think they know HOW the exercise is improving brain power. Participants who exercised had higher concentrations of Brain-Derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which plays a major role in preserving and even growing brain neurons.
This study is part of a larger body of work that supports implementing “Brain Breaks” at work and in school. In fact, they are already doing so in schools in Australia.