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A Single, Moderate Run Can Improve Your Motor Skill Acquisition


By now, most people know that long-term exercise is associated with a host of positive benefits, including greater cognitive function, mental health, and overall physical health. If you’re still not sure if running is “your thing,” here’s another reason (of which there are SO MANY) that you may want to consider more carefully.

Recently researchers have been looking into the affects of a single moderate intensity aerobic training session, and they have found that a single session can lead to immediate improvements in declarative learning and memory. When researchers at John Hopkins decided to see if these immediate benefits extended to motor learning, they discovered some surprising results.

In a new study published in PLOS ONE,  researchers found that a single half-hour run can boost your “motor skill acquisition.”

Looking at 44 young, healthy adults, participants were split into two groups. In the first group, participants took part in a single 30 minute bout of moderate intensity running. They were then asked to perform a motor learning task. Some completed the task immediately after the 30 minute run, others completed it after they had done the run and also had a long rest period. Others performed the task after slow walking.

The second group took part in multiple days of training. They performed either a bout of running or slow walking immediately before motor learning on three consecutive days, and only motor learning (no exercise) on a fourth day.

Motor skill was assessed using a Sequential Visual Isometric Pinch Task (SVIPT) in which subjects were seated in front of a computer monitor and given a force transducer to hold between the thumb and index finger. Participants were then instructed to move the cursor as quickly and accurately as possible to different areas of the screen. Speed and accuracy were calculated for each subject.

The results? Researchers found that moderate intensity running led to an immediate improvement in motor acquisition for both a single session and multiple session participants, BUT it had no effect on between-day retention. The biggest improvement was found in accuracy, as opposed to speed, and was found to have the greatest affect immediately after exercise. Resting for a period of one hour after exercise diminished the effect.

Basically, moderate intensity exercise can prime the nervous system for the acquisition of new motor skills. This is important because capitalizing on this physiological change could improve the outcomes of movement rehabilitation programs of all kinds.

There are two main theories researchers formed for explaining their findings. Psychological models contend that exercise leads to increased arousal and cognitive resource allocation, which could explain why we see improved performance on cognitive tasks. Neuroendocrinological theories attribute the learning improvements to the fact that exercise causes our brain to release neurotransmitters, hormones, and other neuromodulatory substances that support cognition such as epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and cortisol. The fact that resting for one hour after exercise negated the effects supports the second theory more strongly.

What’s the takeaway? Timing exercise before rehab could help physical therapy patients improve more quickly. And, if you’re gearing up for an activity that requires accurate motor skills, such as playing a video game, working on your golf swing, or painting an intricate landscape, a quick run might be just what you need.

5 Great Work Out Tips!

Here are a few great work out tips for any woman looking to get into working, or for an avid gym goer!

1. Chart all your progress

It is important to always track your progress since it will help you determine your progress. Understanding how you’re progression is coming along will help facilitate how quickly you should increase volume or reps per workout. Without a basis of how your workouts are coming, you might catch yourself doing repeated workouts which are not doing much for your body, or the complete opposite where you are overworking your body. In which case, you could potentially injure yourself quite seriously.

2. Work out during work!

Even though this tip may be difficult for many people working in a business environment, for those of you who work in a relaxed workplace, this may be useful for you. Rather then sitting on your traditional work chair, sitting on a medicine ball, and getting in some crunches and other exercises can go a long way. If a medicine ball is not your thing, keeping small weighted dumb bells under your desk and take a few reps every so often will get your muscles working and the blood flowing.

3. Never overwork yourself

One of the most important rules or tips of working out is to overwork your body to limits you know it cannot perform. Many issues that beginners have with working out is wanting to see results immediately. By doing so, they tend to overwork their bodies to limits which physically exhaust themselves or seriously injure themselves. It is smart to pace yourself when you first start working out. Know your limits and take a 80/20 approach where you work out 80% of your allotted time, and rest the other 20%. This system should give your body the rest it needs to recover properly.

4. Work out while walking

While walking and running on the treadmill is a great exercise. It’s possible to utilize your time on the treadmill even more effectively. Grabbing a low weight dumb bell and setting the treadmill on a brisk walk while doing a few bicep curls and shoulder presses should help burn calories and help tone up. Doing this every so often on the treadmill will shorten your work out and get you warmed up for the workout.

5. Sprint

For you runners out there, while running long distances, or while on your daily routine, make sure to throw in 10-60 second sprints in between. The change of pace will confuse your muscles and will in time, make them stronger. Running at a monotonous pace could make your muscles used to a certain pace and when that occurs, the workout will be pointless. Changing up speeds is a good way to keep your muscles toned and will strengthen them.

For all 15 tips, please visit: FitnessMagazine