Boost academic scores with exercise: Research shows cardio pumps up math and reading performance

A Florida State University and Larkin Community Hospital study concluded that high intensity interval training can improve a student’s abilities in math and reading. Frank Fincham who was part of the research said that their findings are “surprising” but can be a simple and effective way for struggling college students to boost their academic performance.

As he puts it, “This high intensity interval training is a way to get the benefits of exercise in a more time-efficient way. In addition to the cardiovascular benefits, we found that students were showing improvements in math and reading working memory.”

Fincham said that the varied benefits of exercise are well-documented, but little is known about how it can potentially help students.

As part of the study, 60 students from the Florida State University were randomly assigned into two groups. The first group exercised three times a week for four weeks at 20 minutes per session. The other group, considered as the control, did not go through any specific workout but could exercise if they wished or if that was already part of their regular routine. Both groups answered standard tasks regarding their verbal skills and math comprehension. Fincham and his team saw that the exercise group showed vast improvements while the control group did not.

“Students who are struggling with math should maybe look at doing more high intensity interval training,” said Marcos Sanchez-Gonzales who helped conduct the study.

The magic pill to becoming smarter? Regular exercise

If you remember your days in school, exam time was always stressful. For those who loved school, the stress was deliciously addictive, but also nerve-wracking. Students who struggled, on the other hand, seemed to always be bathed in a cold sweat. All the same, there was always the wish that there was some kind of magic pill that would make a person smarter – even for a few hours.

It turns out that countless studies have concluded that regular exercise can be all you need to give your grades a lift as well as prevent neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. One such study conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia found that those who regularly engaged in aerobic exercise had a larger hippocampus than those who maintained a sedentary lifestyle. The hippocampus is the area of the brain associated with verbal memory and learning. Interestingly, resistance training, and balance and muscle and toning exercises did not appear to have the same benefit.

Exercise works in two ways. First is its direct effects. Keeping your body active reduces insulin resistance and inflammation by stimulating the release of growth factors and happy hormones. This causes the brain to easily develop new blood vessels and lessens that risk of brain damage.

The second effect is indirect. Exercise helps you de-stress. Those who exercise typically have an easier time to sleep and are generally less irritable. Cognitive impairments related to sleep deprivation become less likely.

Fortunately, you do not need to immediately try for a high intensity workout. Understand your body first and try simple exercises. Find a routine that suits your lifestyle and budget, but keeps your blood pumping. To improve your mental health, experts recommend walking briskly for one hour, twice a week. That’s 120 minutes of moderate intensity for a week.

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