Why Regular Exercise Leads to Better Thinking - THINKERS Notebook

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Why Regular Exercise Leads to Better Thinking

Hello fellow thinker,

Last week's edition of the THINKERS Roundup featured three links with essential techniques and strategies for maintaining the health of your brain.

Turns out, brain health can have a significant impact on your ability to think clearly, consistently, and coherently.

Who knew? ;-)

In response to that edition of the newsletter, I received the following reply from the person who has taught me more about how to think than anyone else (identity revealed at the end of this email):

You didn’t mention exercise. [My boss] gets worried when I go for a walk because I am going to come back with new ideas or a new plan of action. 

He's absolutely right.

How many times have you had an important revelation when you're away from your desk or away from your work and putting your body in motion? It happens to all of us.

When our conscious mind is removed from the stress of solving a problem in the moment, the voice of our subconscious becomes audible. And it's amazing what Eureka! moments can happen when we're open to the ideas of our subconscious. 

But there is so much more happening.

As this Harvard Health Publishing article explains, getting regular exercise actually improves the function of your brain. Your memory improves, your thinking skills sharpen. 

And as this Cleveland Clinic piece details, exercise helps you preserve cognitive skills and lower the risk of dementia.

Remember these scientific truisms the next time you think you can't afford to carve out some time to exercise.

The reality is: how can you afford not to?

Avoiding or deprioritizing exercise is a short-term decision that can prevent you from experiencing the clear and indisputable long-term, compounding impact of regular exercise.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go hop on the elliptical before resuming my workday!

In the meantime, here are three additional links to help reinforce the foundational importance of exercise in helping you maintain and improve your ability to think -- no matter what stage of life you are in.


Exercising actually leads to the creation of new brain cells.
Another explanation for why working up a sweat enhances our mental capacity is that the hippocampus, a part of the brain critical for learning and memory, is highly active during exercise. When the neurons in this structure rev up, research shows that our cognitive function improves.

For instance, studies in mice have revealed that running enhances spatial learning. Other recent work indicates that aerobic exercise can actually reverse hippocampal shrinkage, which occurs naturally with age, and consequently boost memory in older adults. Yet another study found that students who exercise perform better on tests than their less athletic peers.

Read: Why Do I Think Better After I Exercise? (Scientific American)

There is a difference between leisure exercise and simply burning calories at work.
In two studies we found that regular physical activity seems to be beneficial for consumer decision making.

Individuals who were physically active – especially in their leisure time, managed to ignore the irrelevant information and judged the products only based on the information that was useful and informative. Their product judgments in the control condition and dilution condition did not differ significantly from each other. Participants who were not exercising regularly on the other hand showed the classic dilution effect.

Interestingly, we didn’t find the same results for people with a job that requires regular physical activity. The ‘active at work group’ also diluted their product judgments when facing irrelevant information. The motivational component of leisure activity seems to be important for the beneficial effects of physical activity. Like in previous research, an ‘exercise mind-set’ seems to matter. 

Read: Does regular physical activity help us make better decisions? (LSE Department of Management)

The cognitive benefits of exercise are more expansive than you may assume.

Most people end a tough workout with a hot shower, but maybe we should be breaking out the colored pencils instead. A heart-pumping gym session can boost creativity for up to two hours afterwards.

Supercharge post-workout inspiration by exercising outdoors and interacting with nature. Next time you need a burst of creative thinking, hit the trails for a long walk or run to refresh the body and the brain at the same time.

Read: 13 Unexpected Benefits of Exercise (Greatist)

Quote of the week

"True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united."

Wilhelm Von Humboldt
Jerod Morris
Chief Creative Thinker

Photo by Curtis MacNewton on Unsplash