How Exercise Can Increase Your GMAT Score

You may not know it yet, but there are simple things that you can do right now, that will help you to not only score higher on the GMAT but also succeed in business school and beyond. Getting exercise should be the first change on your list!

The New York Times has written extensively recently on the connection between exercise and brain health. It turns out that iPads, video games, smart phones, computers, even crossword puzzles…do not make lasting changes in your brain structure; only exercise does. So if you want to be better at answering the questions on “Jeopardy!” you should turn off the TV and go for a brisk walk.

As stated in the New York Times, “For more than a decade, neuroscientists and physiologists have been gathering evidence of the beneficial relationship between exercise and brainpower. But the newest findings make it clear that this isn’t just a relationship; it is THE relationship.”

It turns out that only through exercise do new brain cells get created and wired into new and existing neural networks. Studying for the GMAT will not create any new brain cells, no matter how hard you work. Only exercise will!

In an experiment involving mice, researchers found that, “Animals that exercised, whether or not they had any other enrichments in their cages, had healthier brains and performed significantly better on cognitive tests than the other mice. Animals that didn’t run, no matter how enriched their world was otherwise, did not improve their brainpower in the complex, lasting ways that [the] team was studying.”

Exercise makes you smarter…

In the year since the original New York Times that I cited above was published, more and more research has come out detailing the link between exercise and the brain.

Another New York Times article, “Getting a Brain Boost Through Exercise” reports on research showing that when you “train your brain” through mental exercises – as many websites claim to do –you are actually only reinforcing neural networks and becoming better at certain tasks – you are not becoming smarter overall, and you are not protecting current brain cells nor creating new ones. Only through exercise can you create new flexible brain cells and create proteins, including one known as BDNF, that “support the health of existing neurons and coax the creation of new brain cells.”

So only physical exercise – particularly endurance exercise that involves elevated pulse rates for 30 minutes or more – can create and protect brain cells. In a groundbreaking article, “Exercise and the Ever-Smarter Human Brain,” anthropologists’ new theories of human evolution seek to explain why. The evidence indicates that endurance exercise may have actually given rise to the larger brain that is characteristic of modern humans. In fact, the link between brain size and endurance holds true for other species as well. Researchers found that “Species like dogs and rats that had a high innate endurance capacity, which presumably had evolved over millenniums, also had large brain volumes relative to their body size.”  All of this leads to the conclusion that humans, “continue to require regular physical activity in order for our brains to function optimally.”

In part 2 of this article, we explore exercise and emotional control and we learn that it only takes one week of exercising to begin to notice the benefits.

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David Newland has been teaching for Veritas Prep since 2006, and he won the Veritas Prep Instructor of the Year award in 2008. Students’ friends often call in asking when he will be teaching next because he really is a Veritas Prep and a GMAT rock star!