“Sports are necessary for mental agility. If you want to know how fit your brain is, feel your leg muscles." Johannes Holler, neuroscientist
Even Aristotle knew that exercise has a positive effect on thinking ability. The Greek philosopher liked to lecture his students while taking a walk with them. For more than 2,000 years this teaching method was considered an idiosyncratic oddity, but today studies show that there is a link between exercise and mental ability.
The sports scientist Prof. Wildor Hollmann investigated that link. Hollmann carried out an experiment with two groups of students. During the test they heard nonsense syllables such as “mo, fro, tra”: they had to remember them and repeat them afterwards. The only difference was that the second group was tested while pedalling on exercise bikes. The students in the first group were not able to repeat most of the syllables. The other group of students achieved better results. Hollmann concluded that what we learn is absorbed more efficiently and retained longer in the brain when it is learned along with exercise. Hollmann believes this is because the brain is better provided with oxygen and nutrients during exercise.
Even on a leisurely stroll there is evidence that 20 per cent more blood is fed to the brain. Increased exercise also leads to the formation of new neurons and boosts the production of neurotransmitters. Various kinds of physical activity have been proven to influence our mental potential: whether you go for a walk or take part in a demanding sport, both spark positive changes in the brain.
© "Was Kinder schlau und glücklich macht!" (What makes children clever and happy!) – Prof. Michaela Axt-Gadermann and Prof. Peter Axt.
A study involving young adults who completed a 30-minute running workout three times a week over a period of six weeks was conducted at the ZNL Transfer Centre for Neuroscience and Learning (University Hospital Ulm, Germany). The results showed an improvement in state of mind as well as improved visual-spatial and verbal memory.
Prof. Dr M. Spitzer/Dr S. Kubesch