12 September 2013

Running Improves Memory and Learning

Did you know that running can make you smarter? It’s true. It can also improve your memory and your test scores. That’s the latest news from assistant professor of psychology from the University of Illinois Justin Rhodes writing for Scientific American. “A growing body of evidence suggests we think and learn better when we walk or do another form of exercise,” writes Rhodes while citing a recent study that found “students who exercise perform better on tests than their less athletic peers.”

Rather than worry about the legendary “freshman 15” trend whereby new college students typically gain 15 pounds in their first year, many students are lacing up their running shoes and signing up for a local 5K (3.1 mile) run. And that’s where adopting a 5K training schedule comes in. The only way to experience the physical and mental benefits of exercise is to do it on a regular basis.

How to get started

Consider your training a “course” subject. Whether you attend a traditional brick and mortar school like Princeton or are pursuing a degree at an accredited online school like Penn Foster, your first goal is to incorporate your training into your daily routine, just as if it was one of your required subjects.

Commit to a race

Most students find that identifying and signing up for a 5K fun run sets a definable goal (i.e. finals) to train for. Pick a race associated with a cause you care about or whose social environment (doughnut run) will get you to the starting line. If you’re not a regular runner, pick an event eight to 10 weeks out to give yourself time to train. Training does two things: it prevents injury, and it sidesteps embarrassment as you try to explain to friends and family post-race why you’re walking so funny.

Pick a training program

Training programs are important to create the physical preparation to run a 5K and to set up a weekly schedule (yes, just like homework). One of the most trusted programs with an impeccable success rate is Hal Higdon’s 5K training program. It's scaled from novice to expert and even offers a program for walkers.

Video: Exercise Makes You Smarter

Recruit friends to join you

Peer pressure can work to your favor, so don’t be shy. Invite friends to train with you, run with you and celebrate crossing the finish together. Look to see if your school has organized runs like Princeton University’s running club. Or use one-line resources like those offered by Penn Foster’s community to set up your own accountability group.

Map out your training schedule

Regardless of your fitness level, you’ll want to map out three to four days a week to train. Look at your class schedule and find at least 45 minutes to an hour that you can dedicate to training. Many find that training first thing in the morning avoids all the distractions that can crop up during the day. The more social runner may find that end of day runs are easier to coordinate both meetups and logistics.

Track your progress

Whether you use a cheap stopwatch and scrawl your time on your calendar or download any number of mobile apps to chart your course (i.e. Runkeeper or Map My Run) it’s import for you to track your progress. It will keep you both motivated and accountable.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

If you miss a workout, forget it and move on. As long as you run three times a week you’ll not only experience the physical benefits, but you just might find your test scores, memory and overall achievement move up a notch. And that’s one more thing to celebrate as you cross that finish line.


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Author: Amy Winters
Amy just graduated with a degree in marketing. She helps run a small theater, and she loves to write about entertainment marketing whenever she can pick up the extra work.