Exercise and Learning

Exercise immediately improves your ability to learn.

Fact:

It sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. In a study at the University of Muenster in Germany, participants who ran sprints learned new words 20 percent faster than those who did nothing. Other research has tied physical activity to improve attention and memory as well.

Exercise is the best thing we can do to ready our brain to learn,” says John J. Ratey, M.D., author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. “We know that the cells become more malleable and ready to make connections. And the learner is more focused, calm, and motivated—[she’s] ready to learn.”

Physical activity has one other major perk too: It increases production of the stem cells that develop new brain cells.

Ratey has found that both aerobic activities and strength training have benefits to the brain, but that more complicated forms of exercise—like tennis and soccer—provide the biggest boost. “You’re taxing more parts of the brain in those activities, which helps it grow,” he explains.