We have all heard about the benefits that exercise can have on your body, but you might not be quite as familiar with the compelling evidence that suggests a strong link between physical activity and brain function. It turns out that regular exercise, especially before academic efforts, can improve your memory, increase your ability to pay attention, and help you learn. Your brain is much more active during studying or test-taking if you first engage in some type of physical activity.

In his award winning book Spark: The The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Dr. John J. Ratey explores this subject through fascinating case studies, including that of the physical education program for the students of Naperville, Illinois, which propelled its students to higher achievement on international standardized tests, obesity levels far lower than the national average, and improved grades after early-morning physical education classes.

Watch a video of Dr. Ratey explaining his findings:

Here are some ideas for how you can get your brain "sparking" in college:

  • Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day, 5 days per week
  • Wake up early to workout in the morning before your classes
  • Sign up for early morning TRX or group fitness classes
  • Take a break during studying to exercise

For more information about SPARK-related evidence:

Interested in sharing this information with your JMU department or organization? The UREC staff would be happy to come share a short presentation with your group. Please contact Kristin Gibson for more information!

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