The Benefits of Exercise Extend Well Beyond the Sports Field (and Right into the Classroom)
Sometimes, the kind of things that research ends up claiming can seem somewhat far-fetched. But that’s the whole point of conducting research, isn’t it – to reveal things that you wouldn’t otherwise think of? Consider this regulatory finding that was just published in the Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine about benefits of exercise that you would never have thought of your own: apparently, a college education doesn’t really equip one adequately to cross busy urban roads without getting run over. What equips one far better in dodging oncoming cars is a solid athletic background.
It was a study conducted by the Beckman Institute. They took up about 35 young people, 18 and above, to study. Some of them were serious university-level athletes with a background in all kinds of sports – from gymnastics to baseball. All of them were picked for how well they had built up their reserves of endurance, strength, power and grace. The rest of those students studied college courses and they were healthy even if they weren’t athletic. The lab experiment that tested the ability these people had at dodging traffic while crossing roads didn’t actually take place out on open city streets. They might have thought that it was too dangerous and they would get sued of something happened (not to mention, the subjects of the study could have found themselves in jail for jaywalking). What they did instead was to design a kind of 3-D video-game-like environment. All the students were made to get up on a treadmill, look into a 3-D screen, and find themselves surrounded by a kind of 3-D urban landscape. It was their job to judge the level of traffic there was, dodge the cars traveling at full speed along the road and get safely to the other side. Sometimes, the students were distracted with the music or piped-in conversation they heard over headphones, and other times they had silence. Everyone was asked to attempt about 100 crossings.
The results were quite surprising, as you would expect; the benefits of exercise that the athletic students had use of, helped them safely complete far more crossings than the non-athletic students. It was not that they ran across the road. They had to walk. Somehow, athletic training helps people scope a busy road more efficiently, understand what is happening around them and take everything in better. It looked as if the athletic students could concentrate, understand information they were presented with and reach a conclusion – all a lot quicker than the nonathletic students. It could be that athletes often need to make split-second decisions and that their minds are honed well to understand motion and a wide field of action quickly.
Some people wonder if it is possible that the athletic students in the study were just more capable of multitasking and concentrating to begin with, and these qualities make them successful at athletics. What if athletics weren’t what were to be credited for their ability to concentrate? Nhey wondered. What if those students were already pretty good with focusing on things even before they entered sports? The thing is, it wasn’t just athletic students who played football and tennis- activities that could help a person gauge a wide field of motion – who aced these tests. It was also the students who participated in swimming or simple running who did well.
But even the athletic students couldn’t perform very well when they had a conversation piped into their headphones. Looks like that cell phone really robs you of your concentration, no matter how capable you are otherwise. So here is your takeaway – exercise hard and reap the benefits of exercise.