Just 15 minutes. That’s sufficient time to exercise to improve not just your physical fitness, but mental fitness as well. Exercising for 15 minute, a new study shows, can help lock in a new skill in your brain. And no, this has nothing to do with high intensity interval training or Tabata. It can be something as simple as short jog or bicycle ride.
The new study by McGill University, Montréal, showed that exercise performed for 15 minutes immediately after practicing something new can help improve long-term retention. However, the results take a day to take effect.
According to the researchers, exercise can increase “brain connectivity and efficiency”, which can help you learn faster.
For the researchers had participants perform a task similar to a video game. Half of them exercised for 15 minutes after the task, and half of them didn’t. An earlier study had demonstrated that exercise can help consolidate muscle or motor memory. The researchers in this study sought to know why.
As previously mentioned, the participants were asked to perform task more or less similar to a video game. The task consisted of a gripping object, known as a dynamometer, that is akin to a joystick. It requires varying degrees of force to move the cursor up and down to connect rectangles on a computer screen as quickly as possible.
After the task, the researchers found less activity in the participants’ brains. However, when they returned the day, those who had exercised were consistently much better at it.
Interestingly, those who exercised showed less brain activity although they performed better. This means that their brains worked more efficiently with less effort. This was attributed to reduction of brain activity in the exercise group, resulting in neural resources being put to other tasks.
The study lends credence to what they say about exercise being good for your brain. Hopefully, they’ll come up with a way of applying this to day to day tasks as the pragmatics of it may not always apply in real life. I don’t see myself exercising each time I try a new task; even the setting may not allow for this.