We all live busy lives and want our minds to be sharp, focused and quick processing to help us put our best foot forward. This may become all the more necessary when you have a huge presentation at work, or a major exam is looming on the horizon. So what do you do when you just can’t seem to focus on the task at hand?
Many of us may think that a few moments of calm relaxation to peacefully gather our thoughts is the best course of action. However, research is showing that a brief jog may be just the thing to get your mind on the right track.
In a study published in Acta Psychologica, Fabian Legrand and his colleagues studied the effects of acute exercise on cognition and feelings of energy. The team selected one hundred and one undergraduate students and had them take two cognitive tests, known as Trail Making Tests. They also asked each participant to rate how energetic and focused they felt.
Once the tests and ratings were complete the students were divided into two groups, one went for a 15 minute moderate-intensity jog and the other performed 15 minutes of relaxation and concentration. After their assigned activity, the students re-took the cognitive tests and rated their energy levels.
The students that went for a jog showed significant improvement on the test that measured mental speed and ability to focus attention. This was not the case for the group that spent the time in relaxation.
The jogging group also reported feeling much more energized after their brief exercise session.
This isn’t the only study that has shown similar results. In an article published in Brain Research, scientists compiled results from 79 different studies measuring the effects of exercise and cognitive performance.
They found consistent improvement of mental function following aerobic exercise across all of the research.
Getting older doesn’t mean there’s less to do. In fact, most of us probably feel quite the opposite!
A study performed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, showed that aging adults reaped huge mental benefits from aerobic exercise. Arthur Kramer, a professor of psychology at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, used an MRI to measure brain activity in adults age 58-78 before and after an aerobic exercise program.
He focused on the middle-frontal region of the brain, which is responsible for keeping goals of tasks in focus, and the superior parietal region, which is linked to attention span.
He found that participants that had followed their aerobic exercise program were able to increase their focus and attention when completing tasks by up to 11%! As you age, aerobic exercise helps keep you both physically and mentally fit.
You don’t have to run either, a brisk walk on a machine like the NordicTrack x9i Incline Trainer (photo right) can be enough to get your blood pumping and your mind refocused.
You know that life comes at you fast and so much of the time, when it rains it pours. There are so many things that can pull your focus and attention when you need it most.
Maybe you’ve been working longer hours than usual or your calendar as taken on a life of its own.
Maybe you’re prepping for a big presentation at work or an exam that’s making you feel like you just can’t fit any more in your brain.
Or maybe your responsibilities are piling up and you just can’t seem to wrap your head around where to begin.
When you’ve reached the point where the words on the page have lost all meaning, or you’re trying to do so much that you aren’t actually doing anything, take a break and go for a jog.
Use some of that precious prep time to boost your energy and re-up your focus. That way you can come back refreshed and ready to tackle whatever comes next.
When you decide it’s time for a little brain break, it’s important to make sure that you actually get the results that you’re looking for. It’s not about burning the most calories, covering the most distance or really getting your sweat on. It’s about the mental processes that occur when you get moving.
In order to see the most improvement in your focus and attention you need to stick to a few simple guidelines.
Time – The amount of time you spend exercising plays an important role in how effective it is. For mental benefits, you want to exercise for 15 minutes. This is long enough to get your blood pumping and the parts of your brain responsible for attention and focus firing.
Intensity – When you are exercising for your brain you don’t want to exhaust yourself, but you do need to be exerting energy.
You want to maintain a moderate-intensity for the duration of your session. This is why jogging is such a great option! You aren’t pushing yourself to your limit, which would leave you both mentally and physically drained.
Another benefit of jogging is that it’s accessible no matter where you are. You can go for a jog around your neighborhood or at a local park.
If you have a treadmill at home this makes your re-focus that must easier. You can hop on your treadmill without having to pack all of the necessary belongings to leave the house or travel to the gym. This cuts down on your time away from tasks. Check out our best buy treadmills to find the perfect fit for your body and your mind.
Next time you start to feel your attention wandering or your progress has come to a standstill, remember the basics and jog your way back to productivity!
Brief aerobic exercise immediately enhances visual attentional control and perceptual speed. Testing the mediating role of feelings of energy: Fabien D.Legrand, CedricAlbinet, AnneCanivet, FabienGierski, IsabellaMorrone, Chrystel Besche-Richard; 2018
The Effects of acute exercise on cognitive performance: A meta-analysis: Y.K.Chang, J.D.Labban, J.I.Gapin, J.L.Etnier; 2012
Exercise sharpens focus, decision-making among aging adults: Jim Barlow; 2004