Get moving: Just 10 mins of exercise can improve focus, decision-making skills

Even a short, one-time burst of exercise can boost parts of the brain responsible for executive function such as decision-making and focus, a study suggests. While other studies have showed brain-health benefits after 20-minutes of a single-bout of exercise, this study, published in the journal Neuropsychologia, suggests even 10 minutes of aerobic activity can prime the parts of the brain that help us focus.

Get moving: Just 10 mins of exercise can improve focus, decision-making skills

“Some people cannot commit to a long-term exercise regime because of time or physical capacity,” said Matthew Heath, from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. “This shows that people can cycle or walk briskly for a short duration, even once, and find immediate benefits,” Heath said. During the study, participants either sat and read a magazine or did 10 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise on a stationary bicycle.

Following the reading and exercise session, the researchers used eye-tracking equipment to examine participants’ reaction times to a cognitively demanding eye movement task. The task was designed to challenge areas of the brain responsible for executive function such as decision-making and inhibition. “Those who had exercised showed immediate improvement. Their responses were more accurate and their reaction times were up to 50 milliseconds shorter than their pre-exercise values. That may seem minuscule but it represented a 14% gain in cognitive performance in some instances,” said Heath.

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