How a 15-minute jog can boost your brainpower

A new study found that it can sharpen your mind, giving you the mental boost you need to find the right solution more quickly.

Photo: Emma Simpson

If you are stuck on a stressful, thorny problem with no answer in sight, you may want to go for a jog. A new study found that it can sharpen your mind, giving you the mental boost you need to find the right solution more quickly.

The power of jogging

Jogging is already proven to help us feel  making us feel more energetic. If you are feeling lethargic and down, the simple act of putting one foot in front of another is a proven method to perk you back up. And those increased energy levels you get from movement can strengthen our mind as well as our body. In a new study for Acta Psychologica, Fabian Legrand and his colleagues tested the power that a brief jog can have on our cognition. They found that “a brief bout of moderate intensity exercise can improve the efficiency of certain cognitive processes through increases in feelings of energy.”

When they recruited 101 undergrad students, they had them complete a cognition test that had them drawing lines between numbers and letters quickly and accurately. To see if exercise could improve scores, they got one group to go for a 15-minute jog around campus and they got another group to do relaxation exercises for 15 minutes. Then they had them repeat a cognition test. They found that those that went for a brief run were better at processing information more quickly. They had stronger mental speed and attentional control. The relaxation group had significantly less energy than the ones who had time to move around outside. When the afternoon doldrums hit you at your desk, you may be better off going outside for a quick refresher over taking some deep breaths.

The findings “add weight to recent suggestions that increased feelings of energy may mediate the relationship between aerobic exercise and some aspects of cognitive functioning,” the study concludes. If you want your mind firing on all cylinders at full speed, you may want to make time to stretch and move your legs. A brief break may be all the time you need to come back refreshed and ready to go back to work.

Monica Torres|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at mtorres@theladders.com.