Exercise makes you smart? Well, duh.

When deciding on a career in journalism, there were a few key selling points:

  • Action and excitement? That beats a cubicle any day.
  • The ability to meet new, interesting people? I’m all for that.
  • The use of critical thinking skills to deliver the best, most informative story? I love a good challenge.
  • The pressure of quick deadlines? Not exactly my strong point…

Despite my hesitation about the stress of time limits, the other aspects of journalism were just too hard to resist. I put aside my fears, enrolled in J101 and never looked back.

Now, halfway to my journalism degree, I’m just as passionate as ever about spreading the news.

In part, this is due to my sure-fire tactic against writer’s block: When a deadline seems to be all-too-quickly encroaching, I put my notes aside, lace up my shoes and pound the pavement.

That way, instead of wasting half an hour on Facebook staring blankly at the screen, I actually do something productive.

But, the benefits don’t stop when I return hot and sweaty glistening from my workout. Instead, something miraculous happens: I plop in front of my computer and the words I was previously unable to find seem to flow onto the paper.

I used to like to refer to this as, “The Paradox of Exercise.”

As it turns out, there is actually science to back my claim that exercise makes you smarter. In a recent article in Real Simple Magazine, Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., said that exercise increases the ability to concentrate.

More specifically, short bursts of heart-pounding exercise flood the brain with oxygen and other chemicals, such as dopamine. This serves to both reduce stress and improve the ability to focus.

All that means is that my ritual jog is good for more than just working up a sweat. Pounding the pavement actually helps me pound out a paper.

And, with little time to spare, I’ll take a “kill two birds with one stone” scenario whenever I can get it.

FYI: I didn’t even need to take a run mid-way through this article. The benefits of exercise on concentration are actually long-term. According to “Mind Tools,” a stress management program, physically fit people “have less extreme physiological responses when under pressure than those who are not.” Therefore, good physical health also helps avoid long-term effects of stress.

Question: Do you notice a difference in your ability to concentrate after exercising?

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