Why You Shouldn’t Study at the Gym

If youíre whirring your mind gears at the same time that you are pumping your muscles, both actions suffer significantly, according to a recent study.

Many great thinkers are famous for taking long, vigorous walks in order to free their minds up to solve problems and make some mental space for†brilliance–Steve Jobs, Darwin, Dickens,†Beethoven,†Aristotle, et cetera.

But in these technologically savvy†times, there is a devilish temptation to multitask whenever possible. Why not do some work while youíre sweating out on your stationary bike or treadmill? There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to dedicate an entire 60 minutes to fitness without getting anything else accomplished, right? Why not do some learning at the same time? Itís a tempting option, but thinker beware: thinking intensely while exercising makes everything worse.

To study these evolutionary developments of the brain, Cambridge University invited 62 elite male rowers to visit their lab on 3 separate occasions:

  • The first day, they were given a mental task of trying to memorize words on a screen and then writing down as many as they could remember in three minutes.
  • The second, the athletes rowed as hard as they could while researchers measured their muscle output over the course of three minutes.
  • The final day, the men rowed for three minutes as hard as they could while trying to memorize new words on a screen and writing as many of them down as they could once the three minutes was up.

As you can imagine, the menís results suffered on the third day. In fact, both skills suffered considerably. The men lost 13 percent of their muscle output and their word retention got worse. However, the loss in muscle output was actually 30 percent greater than the lag in their word retention, meaning that, when push comes to shove, the brain gets energy priority.

So what’s the deal? Why can’t our bodies keep up?

The brain has incredible energy requirements. When youíre really digging into some hard thinking, the brainís caloric demand surges. Likewise, muscles are very calorically needy, especially when you are really pushing them. †Researchers believe both the brain and the muscles compete with each other for precious blood sugar. But the body simply cannot make enough energy to satisfy both organs. So, inevitably, the body will put its efforts into protecting the precious brain over utilitarian skeletal muscles. The brain is pretty darn important, after all.

But brain function still suffers under these conditions, meaning it is probably not the best idea to do any sort of intense studying while you’re sweating it out on a treadmill. Take the mindful approach and tackle one thing at a time with your full attention and energy. You’ll be much more pleased with your output.

Related at Care2

Images via Thinkstock.

35 comments

Janis K
Janis K20 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

SEND
Roberto M
Roberto M22 days ago

thanks noted

SEND
Lisa M
Lisa M22 days ago

Noted.

SEND
Lisa M
Lisa M22 days ago

Noted.

SEND
Clare O'Beara
Clare O22 days ago

th

SEND
Clare O'Beara
Clare O22 days ago

makes sense

SEND
Clare O'Beara
Clare O22 days ago

I don't go to a gym.

SEND
Kelsey S
Kelsey S23 days ago

Thanks

SEND
Sandra V
Sandra V23 days ago

Thanks

SEND
Winn A
Winn A23 days ago

Listen to music

SEND