Boost Your IQ by Choosing Your Exercise Wisely
May 15, 2008
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Studies have shown that some forms of exercise may actually help you think better, while others have little or no impact on your brain matter.
Here‘s a sampling of what works and what doesn’t.
In 2006, Arthur Kramer of the University of Illinois used MRIs to prove that aerobic exercise builds gray and white matter in the brains of older adults. Later studies found that more aerobically fit grade-schoolers also perform better on cognitive tests.
Impact on intelligence: Strong
When weight lifters talk about getting huge, they aren‘t referring to their hippocampus. Researchers have found only the most tenuous link between heavy resistance training and improved cognitive function.
Impact on intelligence: Negligible
When facing a stressful situation or even a scary email, people often hold their breath. Yoga can break that habit.
Under pressure, "most people breathe incorrectly," says Frank Lawlis, a fellow of the American Psychological Association and author of The IQ Answer. The result: more stress and less oxygen to your brain. "So the first thing that goes is your memory."
Impact on intelligence: Possibly strong
Studying on the StairMaster
A spinning class may rev up your mental muscle, but that doesn‘t mean you should study while huffing and puffing on the StairMaster.
Research shows you‘ll just confuse yourself. "It‘s like doing something while you‘re driving," says Charles Hillman, a kinesiology professor at the University of Illinois. In other words, you won‘t do either task well.
Impact on intelligence: Negligible
Other research not mentioned in this Wired article also confirms that aerobic exercise is indeed one of the best things you can do to stay mentally agile into old age.
For example, older people who exercise three or more times a week were found to have a significantly reduced risk of developing Alzheimer‘s and other types of dementia. Healthy people who reported exercising regularly had a 30 to 40 percent lower risk of dementia, but even those who devoted as little as 15 minutes to exercise, three days a week, cut their risk significantly. Even a short, brisk walk every day, the researchers said, can make a difference.
The trick about exercise is treating it like a drug that needs to be prescribed precisely so you can achieve the maximum benefit. There are a number of excellent resources out there for exercise; you can review mine, or search online or in your book store for further resources.
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