Today, ASICS reveals that exercise can significantly improve cognitive function and enhance mental performance. From boosting short-term memory to increasing concentration levels, exercise boosts brain power and can be the answer to helping us pass exams or excel at work.
In a unique experiment, ASICS invited competitive players from around the world, who specialize in mental games like chess and eSports and who rely on their cognitive function, to start an exercise program. After four months of regular exercise, their minds were sharpened significantly and they performed at a higher competitive level.
The participants’ international gaming ratings improved by an incredible 75% proving, once again, the close interaction between our mind and our body. The brain gamers’ cognitive function was enhanced on average by 10%, with problem-solving abilities improving by 9%, short-term memory increased by 12%, and processing speed and alertness improved by 10%. The group’s confidence levels increased by 44%, focus improved by 33%, and anxiety levels decreased by 43%. Research shows that exercise can be just as effective in enhancing brain function as learning a second language, reading daily, playing a new musical instrument, or completing a puzzle every day.
Professor Brendon Stubbs, a renowned researcher of movement and the mind, developed and led the experiment. Each player followed a training program designed by runner-turned-international coach, Andrew Castor. The program included medium-impact cardio and strength training and increased the players’ exercise levels to 150 minutes per week. Professor Stubbs measured the participants’ mental improvement based on their performance on mind games, cognitive tests and well-being questionnaires over the course of the four-month research period.
Commenting on the findings, Professor Brendon Stubbs said: “We all know that exercise is good for our mental and physical health, but the effect on cognitive performance has not been sufficiently explored. We wanted to examine the effects of exercise on people who rely on their cognitive abilities – competitive mind game players. Our results show improvements.” Significant in their cognitive function, including concentration levels and problem-solving abilities.
“Exercise stimulates cell growth in the brain and rapidly increases blood flow to the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, mechanisms that enable us to better retain memories, process information and solve problems quickly. If exercise can significantly increase the mental performance of professional mind gamers, imagine what can It has something to do for the rest of us. From increasing focus when revising for a test or improving alertness before a job presentation, exercise can really boost brain power.”
In addition to showing that exercise improved participants’ cognitive function and gaming abilities, Professor Stubbs also found that the players’ mental well-being was significantly improved, with an average state of mind score improving by 31%. At the start of the study it was a below average 58 and at the end a high score of 76, which shows the huge impact exercise can also have on your mental health.
Andrew Castor, technical director of the study, which developed the players’ training programs, stated: “These results are amazing and speak to the strength of the exercise. Many of the players could only run for more than a minute at the start of the study, so their training programs should be moderate. 150 minutes per week Sounds like a lot but when broken down it can be 5 sets of 30 minutes. No matter your fitness levels, the mental benefits of exercise are available to everyone.”
Inspired by the experience, the camera crew followed four competitive players as they regularly trained to improve their rankings on the international stage. The result is a groundbreaking new documentary, Mind Games – The Experience, narrated by world-renowned actor and mental health activist, Stephen Fry. The feature film, now available to stream on Prime Video, documents the journeys of four players – Kasa Corley, Ryoi Hirano, Ben Pridmore and Sherry Nahan – who specialize in chess, mahjong, memory and esports as they compete in professional tournaments around the world. Watch the documentary trailer here.
Gary Raucher, Executive Vice President, ASICS EMEA, said: “Our founding philosophy is literally in our name, Anima Sana In Corpore Sano or healthy mind in a healthy body. We have long promoted the use of exercise for both physical and mental benefits, but this is the first time we’ve really explored the effect on cognitive performance. Mind Games – The experience shows the power of exercise to sharpen the mind and we hope that after watching the documentary, everyone (regardless of their age, body type or fitness level) is inspired to move to help boost their minds.”
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