Researchers have found that people who took just 10 minutes to ride a bike performed better when they went back to a mentally challenging task than people who didn’t.
Sound too good to be true? At least – you may be saying – I’d have to ride for 40 minutes in a highly competitive, sweaty spin class to get any results. But this report is based on science and published in Neuropsychologica.
Here’s how it worked, as reported recently in Time: Matthew Heath, professor of kinesiology at Western University in Canada, and his colleagues “gave 14 healthy young adults an eye-movement test designed to challenge parts of the brain that deal with executive functions, such as decision making, problem solving and inhibition. They were then asked to either sit and read a magazine, or to ride a stationary bike at a moderate-to-vigorous pace, for 10 minutes. Soon afterward, they repeated the eye-movement test a second time.”
When those bike riders were re-tested, their reaction times improved by up to 50 milliseconds—with no drop in accuracy. The test subjects who sat still experienced no change. Researchers concluded this represented a 14-percent gain in cognitive performance in some instances – a veritable kickstart for the brain. They also concluded a brisk 10-minute walk would serve the same purpose.
Theories about why this works include increasing blood flow to the brain or achieving a heightened level of arousal that makes a person ready to concentrate. Either way, the findings have implications for anyone who wants their brain to work optimally and also could be helpful to people beginning to experience some mental decline.
A previous story on babyboomers.com, in the “For Your Own Good Series,” described the benefits of getting up and moving around rather than sitting at your desk or in your car for long stretches of time – and the serious health consequences if you don’t. Now there’s another reason – and a specific call to action to get 10 minutes of exercise when your brain needs an immediate boost.
What are some other benefits of riding exercise bikes? They tone muscles from core to calves, provide a cardiovascular workout, and they’re easy on the joints.
Read more about the study.