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Running never fails to clear your head. Do you have to make a potentially life-altering decision? Go for a run. Are you feeling mad or sad? Go for a run.
A run can sometimes make you feel like a brand-new person. Research in neuroscience found a link between aerobic exercise and subsequent cognitive clarity.
Neuroscience used to think that our brains got a set amount of neurons. However, studies in animal models show that new neurons are produced in the brain throughout the lifespan.
Vigorous aerobic exercise - about 30 to 40 minutes - is the only activity that triggers the birth of those new neurons. The new neurons are created in the region of the brain associated with learning and memory, partially explaining the link between aerobic exercise and improvement in memory.
Increased activity is seen in the brain’s frontal lobe after adopting a long-term habit of physical activity. After about 30 - 40 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, studies have recorded increased blood flow in this region, which is associated with clear thinking: planning ahead, focus and concentration, goal-setting, time management.
This area is also linked to emotion regulation, allowing us to recover faster from emotions.
Mindlessness - daydreaming, or getting lost in your own thoughts - is as important as mindfulness. The mind wanders because it produces a reward when measured against goals and aspirations that are personally meaningful.
Just because the benefits of losing yourself in your own thoughts are not easily measured doesn't mean they're not of value.
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Any kind of exercise, be it aerobic, walking or Yoga, changes the brain's composition, structure and the way it operates. The changes that happen to the brain:
The brain's electric impulses change, and the Beta waves increase during and after exercise, putting it in a better, more alert state.
Exercise makes our senses sharper and clearer, and we are more perceptive and have better sensitivity to our surroundings.
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When we draw something we are forced to consider in more detail and it’s this deeper processing that makes us more likely to remember it.Even writing a list helps somehow, which is why when you get to the shop and realise you’ve left your shopping list at home, you can still remember more items than if you hadn’t written a list at all. However, doing a drawing takes it one step further.
When you want to learn something in particular, then physical effort does seem to help, at least in the short-term.
In an experiment, people that did 35 minutes of interval training 4 hours after learning a list of pictures paired with locations were better at remembering the pairs than those who did the interval training straight away.