Exercising our way to better brain functioning


Brain Rules, a New York Times bestseller written by John Medina

Olivia Foster, Staff Writer

A hushed audience filled the auditorium this past Wednesday night, as John Medina, molecular biologist, research consultant, and father of two boys, began to speak about the importance of one thing we have been told to do since we were young: aerobic exercise.


Medina, who was introduced by David Gusitsch as “the greatest mind of brain science,” has found that the most direct way to improve the brain’s executive function is to move. He explained that the brain’s executive function is important in regulating emotions, impulses, stress and memory, and gave three compelling reasons, backed by research, for wanting to improve it.

First off, executive function increases school and academic performances. Individuals with higher executive function are more socially adjusted, have higher SAT scores, and are more resistant to depression. Medina, described the results of one study that showed students who did aerobic exercise and then went to class had a 20 percent increase in learning ability than students who exercised and then took the class multiple hours after the workout.

Secondly, improving executive function can improve your personal life. People with better executive function have more self control, are less moody, have better short term memories, give more to charity, commit less crime, are less prone to become alcoholics, are better at managing their anger and have more secure relationships.

Finally, executive function improves your professional life. People who have high executive function set clear goals, have better teamwork skills, are more organized, have less anxiety, are more productive and earn higher salaries.

Some people may be born with higher executive functions than others, but everyone has the ability to develop their executive function with the help of aerobic exercise. According to the research, it only takes 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, 30 minutes a day for five days, to enhance your brain power and improve your executive function. In some cases, exercise can be even more powerful than anti-depressants.

One would be wise to take Medina’s advice as his resume ranges from being named Outstanding Faculty of the Year at the University of Washington School of Medicine in the Bioengineering Department, to being the Founding Director of the Talaris Research Institute and the author of the New York Time’s bestseller, Brain Rules.

Medina’s message to students and adults alike can be summarized in one quote from his book, Brain Rules, “A lifetime of exercise can result in a sometimes astonishing elevation in cognitive performance, compared with those who are sedentary.”