Working out could make college students smarter

Working out could make college students smarter

Couch potatoes are often told to get up and move to prevent obesity. While exercise is important for physical health, it may actually improve cognitive functioning in young adults as well.

Researchers asked 52 healthy female university students between the ages of 18 and 30 about their exercise habits and has them complete a computer-based cognitive test. They then measured the oxygen available in their frontal lobes.

Those who exercised not only had more oxygen available in their frontal lobe, but they also performed better on cognitive tasks, research showed. Oxygen availability has been found to be a key factor in cognitive functioning.

“This provides compelling evidence that regular exercise, at least five days per week, is a way to sharpen our cognitive ability as young adults, challenging the assumption that living a sedentary lifestyle leads to problems only later in life,” says Dr. Liana Machado, lead study researcher and senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology at University of Otago in New Zealand.

Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, clinical psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., says not only does exercise improve cognitive functioning, but researchers have also found it can:

  • Improve mood
  • Decrease symptoms of depression
  • Reduce stress
  • Enhance self-esteem and body image
  • Increase feelings of self-satisfaction
  • Improve the way we cope with stress
  • Increase our energy levels

Dr. Roberts suggests teens try sports, dance, going to the gym, jumping on a trampoline, or going for a walk. Some teens also get exercise through DVDs and video games, with activities like dance and Zumba.

“Often, it is helpful for parents to engage their children in family activities such as taking walks, going ice skating or doing exercise DVDs together,” she says. “The more that teens can get into a routine of exercising, the easier it becomes, and this is where making it a family affair can be extra helpful. Family activities are also a great way for parents to get time to check in with their teens while doing something healthy together.”

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One Comment

  1. I completly agree with this study. In college I lost a bet with a buddy and therefore I had to work out at 6am with him. After that 6am workout I have never been so energized for my day like i was that morning. I payed attention in all my classes i felt fresh and i even had a good breakfast. The hard part is waking up at 6am everyday as a college student.

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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care sites, also including freelance or intern writers.

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