We already know that doing sports is good for your health. It increases your range of motions, alleviates pain in old age, and makes you stronger and more durable during physical tasks. However, did you know that sports can also make you smarter? Here’s how.
As opposed to traditional calisthenics as a form of exercise, when you are practicing sports, your body is doing several things you might not be aware of. Personally, I’ve always struggled with multitasking. Some friends joke that I’m incapable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. The thing is, this is true, to an extent.
Athletes like football and basketball players need to be able to think on their feet. Their movements are better coordinated, they are agile, and they, both consciously and subconsciously, calculate their next move. This is because doing sports and practicing regularly improves the executive function of the brain. It is the part of the brain that holds multiple facts at once and regular practice may increase the number of facts and improve how to use them efficiently.
Tune Out the Noise
If you are like me, sometimes problems can be overwhelming and you tend to overthink. Doing sports helps you tune out the noise. In other words, you learn to ignore what’s not important in order to focus on what is. Imagine being an athlete on the field. The crowd is cheering and booing, and the opposing players are taunting you. This distracts you from your tasks, but if you learn how to tune out these things, you can approach the problem with focus.
There are several things happening to your body on a biochemical level that are important. While doing sports or any physical activity, your brain tries to take the strain from you by producing endorphins and dopamine. These hormones make you feel happy and remove some of the pain and exhaustion you would normally feel.
Furthermore, we are wired to be on alert in order to fight or run away from danger. When the alarm goes off, the body wakes up and is fully prepared to take on anything it is supposed to face. One of the events occurring then is the increased supply of oxygen to the brain. Think of it as giving your brain more fuel to work with. This is why you sometimes get great ideas while jogging (I know I do).
How Does This Improve My Brain?
I mentioned the alarms going off when you are faced with a difficult situation that demands physical activity. By exercising regularly, you are conditioning your body to change its views on what constitutes an emergency. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, running to catch a bus may prove to be excruciating. However, if you regularly play basketball or run in the morning, your body’s idea of emergency shifts to a marathon.
As you move the limits of your physical capabilities, your brain function improves. In other words, the more physically fit you are, the smarter you become. Let’s not also forget the feeling of camaraderie with other athletes on your team or club. You push each other to achieve better results and that leads to a happy and healthy brain.