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5 Surprising Mental Benefits Of Exercise

January 14, 2015 6:00 AM

Photo Credit: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Photo Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Photo Courtesy of Simon & Schuster


Sian Beilock, a leading expert on the brain science behind human performance, is a psychology professor at the University of Chicago. She is the author of How The Body Knows Its Mind, out now from sister company Simon & Schuster and available wherever books are sold.

It’s the New Year and, for many of us, this means exercise is at the forefront of our mind. The hope is to get in shape – and not quit the gym once the going get’s tough. There is no question that exercise can benefit our physical health, but did you know that exercise makes us mentally sharper too? In my new book, How The Body Knows Its Mind, I lay out some surprising revelations about the power of using our bodies to enhance our minds. As it happens, there are lots of reasons to lace up those sneakers and get moving!

Related: Five Healthy Foods For Your Brain

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Improved Focus

Research shows that fit kids are better able to focus their attention, buckle down and concentrate in school compared to their more sedentary peers. There needs to be 4 Rs in school – reading, (w)riting, (a)rithmetic, and….recess.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Increased Cleaning Power

Sure, activities like swimming, running and cycling are great, but did you know that doing household chores at a vigorous pace can also benefit the brain, in addition to keeping the body fit?

Photo Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Photo Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images


Better Negotiation Skills

Whether you’re making a deal on a used car or negotiating a compensation package for a new job, people negotiate better with a lightly elevated heart rate. When we are confident walking into a meeting, and our heart rate is quickened a bit, we interpret this bodily signal as a sign we have brought our A game to the table and are ready to thrive. And we do. Not able to get to a treadmill before the big meeting? Just do some quick jumping jacks in the hall!

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


More Brain Power

Did you know that the size of our brain shrinks later in life? Less brain volume means less power to think, reason and do pretty much everything we need to do. But, a regular aerobic exercise program later in life reverses this trend. Older adults with a consistent exercise regimen are better able concentrate and think quickly on their feet.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Stay Sharp

People who are physically fit judge hills as less steep than their more sedentary counterparts. And, older adults with mobility issues think hallways are longer than their younger counterparts. A vicious cycle emerges – an unfit body influences the mind and makes it harder to get moving in the first place.

Related: J.J. Smith’s Cleansing Pineapple Spinach Smoothie

Sian Beilock, a leading expert on the brain science behind human performance, is a psychology professor at the University of Chicago. She is the author of How The Body Knows Its Mind, out now from sister company Simon & Schuster and available wherever books are sold.

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