Get out there people, it should help you think.

  • Sunday, May 17, 2015
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With both my wife and I working in education we often have a variety of education related books in the house at any given moment. One such book on the table right now is called The New IQ, Use your working memory to think stronger, smarter, faster by Tracy and Ross Alloway. It's my wife's current reading but picking it up and idly flicking through it I came across these thoughts...
"In our research we have found that one activity in particular that can pump up your brain power"
The authors go on to explain how the human body is a long distance running machine and that humans can run longer and better than any other mammal. They state that a study by the University of Illinois showed that running improves working memory,  the cognitive function responsible for keeping information online, manipulating it, and using it in your thinking. The study compared weightlifters and runners and found that the former showed no improvement in working memory after a workout yet running boosted mental performance. So far, so good but where it really got my attention was where the theory was extended - by looking at the effects of barefoot running. A Japanese professor, Mitsui Suzuki posits that running has an effect on working memory because it can be unpredictable requiring changes in gait or having terrain variations thus requiring what he termed controlled attention, a working memory skill. The authors of the book wondered if barefoot running which requires a higher level of controlled attention would enhance working memory even further. The realisation that barefoot runners have a lot more to process (how do things feel under their feet, rough, smooth, warm, cold, painful etc) made them wonder if the extra cognitive input from barefoot running led to cognitive benefits. They set up a study where barefoot runners and shod runners filled in a questionnaire and undertook a series of tests. The result was interesting to say the least in that barefoot runners came out with a higher working memory than their shod counterparts. This could be because of the extra sensory stimuli and the fact that barefoot runners need to be aware of everything that is underfoot, they can't ignore the things that shod runners can (sheep recycled grass was given as an example)
Whether you run barefoot/ minimalist or shod though, it seems that running, according to these studies at least, is the form of exercise that best boosts our brain function, another great reason to run!
In my experience I do find that I concentrate far more when running or walking barefoot and do some of my best and most creative thinking during a run or in the hour or so afterwards.
Get out there people, it should help you think.

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