Once the holidays are over and the new year is blooming, you may be one of the many, many people signing up for a shiny new gym membership to help you get rid of those love handles. But before you decide to quit mid-January like most people, consider this: Exercise just isn’t good for your waistline — it can make you smarter too!
That’s according to a recent studies out of Spain that have found that walking or biking to school significantly raises test scores in girls. And the longer the commute, the better they do.
Researchers from the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid studied the test scores of 1,700 Spanish teens and compared those scores to their mode of transport when it came to getting to school. It was found that girls who biked or walked to school did far better in tests of cognitive function than girls who didn’t have an active commute — and the girls who took longer than 15 minutes to get to school did better than those with short commutes.
But 15 minutes isn’t that much time — why would a short walk make such a difference? It could be for physical reasons — increased blood flow to the brain, for instance — but some experts believe walking might help teens mentally prepare for the day. “It may be a good period to start thinking about the school day,” Dr. Francois Trudeau of the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières told Reuters.
On average, 65 percent of Spanish students tested either walked or biked to school. In contrast, it’s estimated that less than half of North American teens get the minimum one hour of recommended activity a day. Sure, it may be more difficult for a teenager to walk to school in suburban, frozen Canada, but it’s obvious that it’s fairly important for our kids to get moving.
And even if you’re not a teen, the message is clear: Exercise is so important, and not just as a means to undo the damage of your holiday indulgences. Considering walking to work, or at the very least taking a stroll over your lunch break. You never know — it might just help you wow your boss at that afternoon meeting.