Exercising While You Learn?

As an aspiring PE teacher, I continue to be inspired and moved by each piece of research that comes out touting the mental and learning benefits of exercise. A lot of people choose to be frustrated — and rightfully so — by the repeated slashing of PE programs in public schools across the country, despite empirical evidence that daily recess and PE help improve test scores, the ability to focus, and emotional/psychological health of students. I’ve gone through the frustration phase and it got me nowhere, so I’m now choosing to stay positive and optimistic that eventually this mountain of evidence will grow large enough that policy makers will have no choice but to take serious action.

pile of papers

So, climbing down from my soapbox…the title of this post is referring to a recent article in the Well section of the NYT entitled, “How Exercise Can Help Us Learn.” The latest conclusions from the studies cited in the article show that (a) when you choose to study (in relation to when, say, a test of knowledge might be), and (b) the intensity of the workout can absolutely impact one’s ability to retain information for use on an assessment.

Please do go ahead and read the article but I’ll try to sum up the findings CliffNotes style:

— Women were given a chapter in a textbook to read. Some of the women sat and read quietly, and some read while performing 30 minutes of vigorous cardio on an elliptical.

— Both groups were tested immediately after they read and also a day later. Given what I’m assuming was a standard recall of information type test, the women that were on the elliptical actually scored worse than the control group on the immediate testing, but the scores were a dead-heat when tested a day later.

Conclusion: If you have a test or a presentation in a few hours, trying to workout and cram at the same time might actually be harmful.


— In another study involving low-intensity biking, results showed that working out while listening to an educational audio tape actually yielded better memory retention than exercising beforehand or not exercising at all.


Conclusion: The low intensity of the exercise is not too much to overwork the brain, whereas high intensity exercise can caused neurological signals to get crossed. The low level physiological stimulation actually primes the brain for learning.


All of this has yet to be proven 100% truth, but for me it’s fascinating. Given that a lot of a typical PE class is done with what I’d classify as “low intensity” exercise, I think this only further validates PE as way to prime the brain for learning in other classes.


What do y’all think? Find any flaws in the study? Is this something you think you’ll pull from when you’re coordinating your week’s workouts?


Just Hit Play

A weekly series where you’ll find a handful of songs to add to your workout playlist. 

Let’s do a theme for this week’s JHP. Themes are fun, right? This week’s songs will all make you say, “hey this sounds like it’s by (insert well-known band name here)”.

Clarias — The Size of Bullets

If you turned on the radio and caught the chorus, you might think that Bon Jovi is putting out a new record. Nope, that would be the relatively unknown band named Clarias out of Boston. It’s a catchy song that I could run to.


Sunday’s Best — Saccharine

I was never huge into punk so I won’t embarrass myself by trying to take a stab at making a comparison here, but after seeing how short their wikipedia page is, I figured it was a safe bet that both the song and the band have flown under your radar.


Fun. — Some Nights

Ok, so this song is getting a ton of air play as a follow up to the We Are Young single. I’m adding it anyways because (a) it’s my favorite song to run to lately and (b) it has the unmistakable sound of a modern Queen song.


The Weeks — Altar Girl

If you like the southern rock of Kings of Leon, check out this group. If you like Altar Girl then check out their other stuff  — both the Rumspringa and Comeback Cadillac albums are worth your time. The Weeks have a grittier, less-polish-and-more-punch sound to them than Kings of Leon, which I dig for my workouts.

Note: Sorry, I couldn’t find a full length version or youtube video. Check this out or go to Itunes: http://www.last.fm/music/The+Weeks/_/Altar+Girl
Patrick Sweany — Them Shoes
Another dead-on soundalike, Them Shoes could easily be mistaken as a Black Keys song. It might be too slow of a tempo for you to workout or run to but it’s a cool song so I threw it in.
Alright that’s it for this week. Be well…

Just Hit Play

A weekly series where you’ll find a handful of songs to add to your workout playlist.

Ghostland Observatory — No Place For Me

Shoutout to the boys from Austin, TX here. Ok so they might seem a little crazy…

A) They’re based out of Austin


B) They like laser lights a lot


C) Their drummer looks like this


I have absolutely no idea what the lyrics to this song mean, but I just try to think about a dark time or place in my life and how I want to get as far away from that as possible, and that gets me going. Crank this one up loud.


Macklemore & Ryan Lewis — Wings

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at Sasquatch 2011

Making his second appearance on JHP, this one goes back before he was all over the radio. The cool thing about Macklemore is he’s good for a fun, jump up and down anthem type song, and he’s also good to give you a social commentary song.

Wings is about the addictive nature of collecting shoes and the pressure kids feel to have the best kicks in school. The song has rises and falls with slower, dramatic phrases followed by Macklemore getting angry a la Eminem or Lil Wayne (his idol, I think). The video is really well done, and of course shows off his town of Seattle. I dig the Spike Lee Nike references, too.


I’ve got to cut it short this week, but I’ll be back next Monday with more songs for your workout playlist. Until then, be well.

How Long Should Your Daily Workout Last?

For awhile now, the Surgeon General’s recommendation and the general consensus has said 30 minutes a day. That, in turn, sparked the question among researchers and those in the health/fitness profession: can this be broken down into two 15 minute sessions or three 10 minute sessions? And what are the subsequent health and performance ramifications of 1 vs. 2 vs. 3 sessions per day? Well, it seems we are still trying to answer that question.

A recent column in the Well section of the NYT, citing several different studies, basically said the benefits of shorter bouts that add up to 30 minutes are either inconclusive or negligible, when compared to the “traditional” single 30 minute bout.


So for those of you out there wanting some resolution to this — wanting to know the most effective route to better health or a faster mile time or more fat loss or _________ — sorry, but it sounds like there isn’t a definitive answer yet. And there may not be for some time (or ever).

My advice: just do whatever works for you, given your daily schedule and your preference. If you like to break it up into smaller chunks or use those federally mandated 15 minute work breaks to exercise, go for it. If you find it easier to just knock it out in one fell swoop before or after work, go for it. Whatever brings you peace of mind or whatever your schedule dictates — do that.

Whatever you do, give it your all. Be well out there…

Workout Without Borders

I promise to move past the literal “playground” meme that I’ve been on lately, but I first had to pass on this video. This is some really cool, yet really advanced stuff.

The first time through, I was too in awe of the difficulty and beauty of what they were doing. The second time I watched, the “big picture” came into focus. What I hope you take away from the video is the power that fitness possesses to transform lives — giving people passion and a purpose.

Some really great messages that apply to all aspects and levels of exercise and fitness are spread throughout the video…

Be your own inspiration

Compete against yourself…be stronger than the person you were yesterday

Let the creativity flow

Failing is part of the process…don’t give up

Axioms like this seem pretty lame when they’re on a poster in your school counselor’s office or in your work’s break room. When you see them in action — spoken by people like us, that have struggled and fought and found success — there’s nothing lame about them.

Share, comment, pass it on. Live without borders. Be well.