Exercise improves cognitive flexibility, fluency of thought, and overall intelligence.
• Intelligence is often viewed as a stable characteristic that cannot be easily modified. However, there is growing evidence that exercise makes us smarter.
• A new study finds that doing aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise 3 times a week boosts intelligence and test scores in • schoolchildren.
• Aerobic exercise combined with resistance training exercises can improve a child’s cognitive flexibility, smooth thinking and crystallized intelligence.
New exercise-based neuroscience research challenges the idea that intelligence is a stable trait that cannot be changed through daily habits or lifestyle changes.
A randomized clinical trial found that participating in a 20-week exercise program improved overall intelligence and improved academic performance in school-age children. The researchers’ primary goals were to study the effect of an exercise intervention combining aerobic and strength training on the size of the hippocampus (memory center) in the students and to identify any exercise-induced cognitive changes in terms of executive function, general intelligence and academic skills.
Cardio + Resistance Training = Better Cognition
Compared to students in the control group who did not exercise, students who participated in three 90-minute exercise sessions per week, consisting of 60 minutes of aerobic activity and 30 minutes of resistance training, crystallized in fluid intelligence (i.e., problem solving/connecting the dots), Significant improvements were shown in terms of intelligence (i.e. stored knowledge) and cognitive flexibility (i.e. the ability to change mental gears in an adaptive manner).
The workout can be performed without cardio machines or weights, making it cost-effective and easy to implement in a wide range of school settings and classroom settings.
Although this exercise program boosted the schoolchildren’s intelligence in at least three different ways, the researchers were unable to determine which brain changes, if any, were related to the students’ cognitive flexibility, crystallized intelligence and fluency of thinking using conventional MRI neuroimaging improvement related.
Contrary to the researchers’ initial hypothesis that the 5-month exercise intervention might increase gray matter in the hippocampus and improve working memory, MRI neuroimaging of the participants’ brains after the 20-week exercise program did not reveal a larger hippocampus body.