It's February, which means time is already ticking on those New Year's resolutions made last month. For many of us, losing weight and/or getting fit was likely on the list. But what about getting smarter? Most executives would agree that they could benefit from a sharper, more agile mind, but how realistic is that goal? As it turns out, not only is it plausible to "get smarter," it may be an automatic benefit of the resolution to slim down and get in shape.
Last month, Wendy A. Suzuki, a professor of neural science and psychology at New York University, authored an article for Quartz in which she claims that the neurological benefits of exercise could have profound, positive implications for how we live, learn, and age as a society. Her article offered some motivating takeaways that help to explain how exercise can do just that.
- Exercise combats stress. The chronic stressors we face every day can harvest negative feelings. Exercise can combat those feelings through increases in key neurotransmitters that are often depleted by anxiety and depression.
- Exercise improves our ability to shift and focus attention. A recent study conducted by Suzuki and her colleagues showed that exercise improved prefrontal cortex functioning. Need your brain to be at its best for a big meeting or presentation? Squeeze in a workout first.
- Exercise can improve our memory and attention span. According to Suzuki and a recent studies in rodents, "Increased levels of physical exercise can result in improved memory by enhancing both the birth rate and the survival of new hippocampal brain cells."
Dr. Tara Swart agrees: We can be slimmer AND smarter this year
Our own resident neuroscientist and Senior Lecturer, Dr. Tara Smart, agrees that it's possible to get slimmer and smarter at the same time, as a result of exercise and proper nutrition--to really make it count. In addition to the benefits of healthy activity, what you choose to put in your mouth can have a profound impact on your mind. A recent blog on her website shared healthy tips from nutritionist Hayley Pedrick to help our brains be refreshed, revived, and prepared for the New Year.