In case you needed one, here’s another reason to exercise: a July study says mental and physical training can improve how your brain works. According to a study from the The University of Texas at Dallas’s Center for BrainHealth, cognitive brain training helps adults improve executive functions — including inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, planning and problem solving — and aerobic activity helps strengthen memory.
As part of the study, adult participants were split into two groups: cognitive training and physical training. The cognitive training group received Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training, which focused on attention, integrative reasoning and innovation. The physical training group was asked to complete three, hourlong exercise sessions per week that included five minutes each of warmup and cool down and 50 minutes of treadmill or spin exercise. Researchers measured the participants neurocognitive, physiological and MRI data before, during and after each session.
Through the study, the MRI data showed global cerebral blood flow gains among the cognitive training group, which researchers attributed to the participants’ mental work during the SMART exercises. While these gains weren’t seen among the aerobic exercise group, participants with improved memory performance showed higher cerebral blood flow in the area of their brain related to memory function and considered vulnerable to dementia.
The takeaway: In order to improve brain health, people need to be strategic about making mind and body exercise part of their daily regimen if they want to see and experience results.
Many scientists caution against investing in online brain training products because the long-term impact is still uncertain. Can the skills learned in a matching game really apply to a worker’s daily job? Or, is the user simply becoming better at the game itself by playing all the time? Still, it’s difficult to see how solving one of those grid-based, logic puzzles on a daily basis could hurt. The exercise part? Well, that’s at the forefront of many of our minds already, isn’t it?
Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer magazine associate editor. Comment below or email email@example.com.