Working Out Doesn't Just Make You Stronger, It Makes You Smarter

So much for the idea of dumb jocks.

We already know the facts: Our country is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Few American adults exercise enough, and that poor lifestyle choice is getting handed down to our children, who are getting fat at record levels. And all that obesity is affecting our health, causing heart disease, diabetes, and untold other health consequences. But what if the effects aren’t only physical?

This new infographic, from OnlineCollegeCourses.com points out that exercise has some great benefits for not just how our body works, but how our brains work, too. It’s clearly important for kids, who need all the brain power they can get for school, but it’s equally important for adults: A fit worker is a fast, efficient worker.

First, let’s review the facts. Children—who should be buzzing about with so much energy that we have to ask them not to exercise—aren’t moving around that much anymore. (Ironically, part of the problem is the diminished role of phys ed in many public schools.) Only one in four children get 30 minutes of daily exercise, and by the time they’re teenagers, only 12% are getting their daily recommended amount of physical activity.

So what? Bill Gates probably spent more time tinkering with computers than he did on the basketball court, and he turned out fine. But not all of us are Bill Gates. In fact, only one of us is. Most of us could probably use a little brain boost, and it turns out that exercise does just that. In studies of students, vigorous exercise was shown to improve IQ scores by 3.8 points—and test scores, too.

This applies to adults, as well. Exercise improves memory, releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (a protein that makes your neurons healthier), and has been shown to potentially increase the size of your hippocampus—the part of the brain responsible for memory and spatial recognition. It’s no surprise, then, that college students who work out before class do better on tests, and workers who work out are more efficient.

The lesson? If your employees want to take a longer lunch break to hit the gym, you should let them. You’ll be getting more than enough out of them in the afternoon to make up for the lost time.

See the full infographic here or see it below, if you’re not too busy at the gym:

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  • Shravan Rajput

    Wow.,..tats really cool..!! I totally agree wit ths...I will start the same by today itself

  • Emilymayjackson

    It states "A Harder workout could mean sharper thinking", is there any evidence to suggest that intensity or type of workout effects intelligence?

  • Cristina

    Latins knew that already, they were used to say: 'mens sana in corpore sano'

  • Atherton

    But doesn't a person who regularly exercises scedule himself better ? In which case the benefit isn't the exercise itself but the likelihood that the person will scedule and pace himself better than someone who doesn't? Just a theory.

  • Pena Nov

    The only thing that i find attractive is that "This Web site is potentially useful and insightful!"

  • Joel Schuster

    Corollary does not mean causal.

    This is interesting information but a harder workout does not cause one to be smarter. If anything, being smarter would cause you to work out.

  • Privet Romashki

    Middle class parents encourage their children to exercise more. Go figure. No research needed here.

  • Daniel

    Two comments. First (snark alert), the designers of the infographic should have gone for a run before writing "GO ONTO HIGHER EDUCATION." I think that shoulda been "go on to higher education." I imagined a fit 18-year-old (hyphens proper?) dancing atop the Old Main of his or her college of choice.

    Second, is the conclusion that "a *harder* workout could mean sharper thinking"? Is there anything about intensity of the workout in this data? Crossfit vs. a leisurely walk after lunch? Just curiousl

  • Oliver Wright

    In the last couple months a highly particularized type of brain exercise that taxes (and therefore builds) working memory has been shown to boost performance on IQ tests 10-15 points as well. It requires you to identify prior patterns as cards are flipped sequentially moving to left to right. The further back -- 2 cards; then 3; then 4; etc.)  -- you can hold in your mind and bring forward to compare to the current flip card, the smarter you get.

  • Vinish Madukkavittil

    Yes it makes you to get most out of our daily life..........................U feel more energetic and fresh throughout  the day

  • Frankbaca9

    Think back during your younger years in school. After breakfast the body and mind were still booting up.  I am a trainer and to this day always remind clients of how productive they are after a workout with me at the gym. The same for those kids in elementary school after recess.  They were most productive in the classroom after activity and movement. It blows my mind to hear schools doing away with Physical Education class/programs at a staggering rate. Deming them expensive and unnecessary?

  • Slseaver

    How many kids have problems concentrating in school?  I know I did, but everything changed for the better when I started running.   Does it make you smarter? Maybe. I know it helps me think better. 

  • Adriana_wp

    Agreed that it is a shame that this is happening in schools.  Kids need parents to ensure that they are not only completing classroom homework but also excercise homework.  My kid is not natually athletic but now I'm forcing him to do a few sets of pushups and situps in the morning before heading to school.  I do it with him so it forces me to do it also.  It only takes 15 minutes and it makes a difference.

  • Jeff Crews

    Well said...I know that recess was always an energy boost for me (Sometimes I wish I could go back to the days of FourSquare and Kickball :) ). At our offices, we incorporate weekly fitness competitions between the employees to ensure 1. people are getting in their daily exercise 2. employees are motivating/encouraging others to become more fit and 3. we find that it increases energy and awareness during the week!