Intensive exercise improves the intellectual performance of teenagers, and there is no reason why that doesn’t apply to adults
A university study in 2013 of about 5,000 under 16s found links between exercise and exam success in English, maths and science.
In effect the an improvement in academic performance could be noted for every extra 17 minutes boys exercised, and every 12 minutes for girls (although no one quite knows why there is this sexual difference).
This is interesting in itself, but what suddenly struck me on coming back to this research in 2014 is that nowhere does the research suggest in any way that this improvement is limited to under 16s. There is no reason why it does not apply to adults also.
The study by the universities of Strathclyde and Dundee found that students who carried out regular exercise, not only did better academically at 11 but also at 13 and in their exams at 16.
The starting point of the study was the fact that most teenagers get well below the recommended 60 minutes a day of activity. So the researchers wondered what might happen if for a while they got the recommended amount.
They claim that it is possible that students who carried out an extra 60 minutes of exercise every day could improve their GCSE academic performance by a full grade. Although they did not research with others then also found that the grades could go up at later levels of study.
Dr Josie Booth, one of the leaders of the study, from Dundee University said: “Physical activity is more than just important for your physical health. There are other benefits and that is something that should be especially important to parents, policy-makers and people involved in education.”
The interesting point in all this is that no one can do intellectual work constantly – we all need breaks. The implication here is that the breaks could themselves aid inellectual performance if they are physically active.
Put another way, we all of us do some intellectual work during the day – some more than others. But then the evening comes along and we have the option of chatting with friends, watching TV, sitting in a pub, reading a book etc etc.
But if three times a week we were to go dancing, and dance enough to make a total of seven or more hours in the week, we will be making a serious difference to our intellectual ability. In short, the dancing will make you brighter!
Unfortunately most schools are not geared up to this sort of Study/Activity/Study approach to schooling. But it certainly could raise attainment rates if one could do this.
And most students have fairly full lives what with schooling and homework. But as adults most of us do have free time.
Now of course one might say, “I’m too tired to go dancing” but the truth is that dancing can indeed wake you up, if only you can get there. Time and again I have seen slouch into the dance club, but gradually wake up through the evening, until by 10.45 or 11pm they are truly buzzing.
Exercise has become unfashionable, the preserve of the nerds who go to the gym or go road running, but exercise each day is clearly vital not only for your physical well being but it turns out also helps a lot with your mental well being.
It seems, from this preliminary research, that no matter what your intellectual capacity, regular dancing can enhance that level of intellect.