Previous research indicates that the cognitive benefits of physical exercise and brain health may be enhanced when mental exercise is combined at the same time.
Research also indicates similar benefits in cases where mental work of a more meditative nature is combined with the physical activity.
There are quite a few examples of physical activity that require at the same time an invigorating mental workout. Below we run through three with benefits proven by Science.
Exergaming is a combination of both video-gaming and exercise. It is popular with kids but is very much catching on with adults as an enjoyable way today to get active.
Research led by the University of Manchester showed that exergaming had significant cognitive functioning benefits for participants, being of particular benefit to their focus, attention, executive functioning and visuospatial abilities. It showed significantly more beneficial effects when compared to physical activity on its own. (activity without the mental stimulation).
A study published in the Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience assigned adults ranging in ages from 60-80 to different forms of activity in order to test the effect on their cognitive functioning. The 3 forms of activities were brisk walking, stretching and balance training and dance classes. At the end of the study brain scans were done on the 3 sets of participants and these brain scans were compared to the scans done at the start. The dancers achieved the best results of all, showing the lowest amount of deterioration in their brains over time.
In the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, participants who did some Hatha yoga achieved a greater score on brain functioning tests (in terms of speed and accuracy) than participants tested after aerobic exercise.
Aerobic exercise is excellent for the brain. It offers many benefits including improvement of memory, thinking skills, reduction of depression and protects against age-related decline. However, the interesting thing shown here is that a form of meditative exercise can be very powerful in combination and can offer a competitive advantage against those who focus only on aerobic. It does this by helping the mind to calm, re-focus and so perform stronger.
The Acute Effects of Yoga on Executive Function
White Matter Integrity Declined Over 6-Months, but Dance Intervention Improved Integrity of the Fornix of Older Adults
The effect of active video games on cognitive functioning in clinical and non-clinical populations: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials