Students may please take note that exercising for a brief period before writing a test or going for an interview may improve performance. Researchers have found that just 10 minutes of exercise can prime the parts of the brain that help us focus and solve problems.
“Some people can’t commit to a long-term exercise regime because of time or physical capacity,” said study co-author Matthew Heath, Professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.
“This (study) shows that people can cycle or walk briskly for a short duration, even once, and find immediate benefits,” Heath said.
The findings, published in the journal Neuropsychologia, have implications for older people in the early stages of dementia who may be less mobile, and for anyone else looking to gain a quick mental edge in their work.
During the study, the research participants either sat and read a magazine or did 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise on a stationary bicycle.
Following the reading and exercise session, the researchers used eye-tracking equipment to examine participants’ reaction times to a cognitively demanding eye movement task.
The task was designed to challenge areas of the brain responsible for executive function such as decision-making and inhibition.
“Those who had exercised showed immediate improvement. Their responses were more accurate and their reaction times were up to 50 milliseconds shorter than their pre-exercise values,” said Heath.
“That may seem minuscule but it represented a 14 per cent gain in cognitive performance in some instances,” Heath explained, adding that he is conducting a study now to determine how long the benefits may last following exercise.