The Ties Between Sports and Intellect

By Patricio Flores, Roxana Margelu, and Leilani Quintero
SEPT 25, 2020

In our lifetimes, we have all heard the phrase “Exercise is good for us!” The physical benefits of exercise are vast. These benefits range from improving muscle strength and endurance to helping the cardiovascular system by delivering oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. However, one benefit we often overlook is the academic gain we receive from exercising. Something as simple as a ten minute jog can positively affect our brain and its learning ability. According to a Harvard health study, aerobic exercise can physically reconstruct our brain to increase memory retention and thinking skills. Specifically, it boosts the size of the hippocampus in our brains, the area responsible for said effects. This benefit comes from an increased ability in lowering insulin resistance, reducing inflammation, and stimulating the release of growth factors. Apart from these direct effects, its indirect effects are also extremely positive. Regular exercise can reduce stress, anxiety, mood, and improve sleep which are all key components that can enhance learning ability and memory retention.

According to a study done by the Centre of Educational Neuroscience in the United Kingdom, empirical evidence from mice demonstrated that the tiny rodents have increased brain activity if exposed to voluntary exercise. This study also displayed that research on children’s brains can further prove these claims, thanks to BMI and aerobic exercises mandatory in most schools. Kids who exercised between classes were able to have longer attention spans, and this surprisingly affected kids with ADHD as well. The Centre of Educational Neuroscience also concluded that physical activity leads to better cognitive performance and can reduce risk of diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s. 

There are many students who exemplify how exercise and participating in sports can positively influence brain activity within our own Saint Thomas student body. One specific athlete is Ana Troncoso who participates in STA’s Cross Country team. According to Troncoso, cross country is in fact planning on having a season this year, sometime in September. Raider Review asked Troncoso how often she independently practices her sport, in which she responded, “I’ve practiced my sport independently every day this week until we can start practice again.” Keeping active with her running, she also has to focus on her rigorous class schedule, taking multiple Advanced Placement classes. Moreover, keeping up with her high grades and time consuming sport has taught Troncoso valuable time management skills. She states that “Cross Country has helped me with time management because normally after practice I would get home at 7 and have to do my homework in a short amount of time.” By consistently maintaining an A average as well as being dedicated to a sport, Troncoso is the perfect example of how the benefits of exercise span far greater than just improved physicality. Through hard work, determination, and the positive effects sports demonstrate on brain activity, Ana Troncoso is able to excel in her difficult AP classes and busy schedule.