There have been many studies to determine the impacts of aerobic exercise on mental function. The results are very positive and show that “cognitive performance” is improved by a 20-minute aerobic workout at somewhere between 60-70 percent of max heart rate.
Which makes a lot of sense, all the extra blood flow and oxygen circulating through your body and brain would have to improve performance!
What may be surprising to you is that a recent study that compared 20 minutes of Hatha Yoga to 20 minutes of aerobics found that reaction times and accuracy were even more improved after the yoga practice than they were after aerobics! These measurements are indicators linked to the ability to focus and to retain and use new information.
The study was carried out by Neha Gothe, a former graduate student at the University of Illinois and now professor of Kinesiology at Wayne State University, and her colleagues. There were 30 undergraduate female students that participated in this study.
“It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout,” Gothe said. “The breathing and meditative exercises aim at calming the mind and body and keeping distracting thoughts away while you focus on your body, posture or breath. Maybe these processes translate beyond yoga practice when you try to perform mental tasks or day-to-day activities.”
The research around the cognitive effects of yoga is in its infancy, but there is more and more of it taking place. It will be interesting to monitor the findings as it progresses.
You can read more about this study at:
Or download a copy of the paper at: