Instead of reaching for a mindless magazine or the latest top 40 playlist while you’re doing time on the treadmill, reach for an audiobook or novel. Studies show that learning while exercising can help you retain information better than you can while sitting quietly. Now that school is back in session, students can take advantage of this knowledge while prepping for a big exam.
One experiment had participants study after sitting quietly for 30 minutes, after exercising, or during cardio on a bicycle. Participants that studied on the bike did better in tests on the new knowledge. Another study found that really vigorous exercise didn’t improve retention as gentle exercise did, and immediately after the workout students had a harder time recalling information.
It makes sense. While your body is doing light activity, your attention is heightened so you’re more able to memorize facts. But if you’re giving it your all and focusing on working hard, your brain is occupied with your body rather than getting in new information.
The old saying is “Mens sana in corpore sano” — a healthy mind in a healthy body. When you hit the gym for a long spell of cardio work on the bike or elliptical, listen to something that piques your interest and you’ll be smarter for it later. Then turn up the tunes and work hard during the rest of your workout.