The Fit Student – Smarter

Are you a B or C student, dreaming of A’s? Or do you simply want to get smarter? In either case, you’ll benefit from Dan Hurley’s book Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power. Hurley challenges the recent notion that brain-smarts stay the same. Yes, research now indicates you can get smarter.

We know we can get more fit. When I hit the gym after a lazy lifestyle, my muscles didn’t pop-out on day-one. Instead, I pushed and pulled heavy weights for five hours a week over a three-year span. After four months of training, I looked in the mirror horrified, “Tarzan Photoshopped in a bra!” But after three years of ever-increasing weight intensity, my muscles filled-out nicely: any clothing item I put on looked great.

But once I stopped training, the muffin belly reappeared.

We also know we can get healthier by choosing nutritious foods. I once guzzled coffee while starving myself. I looked like a pregnant femur bone. Now, I eat lots of spinach, carrots, broccoli, apples, nuts, green tea, whole grains, fish and chicken?on a limited budget. Studies highlight benefits of healthy eating, including reduced risk of disease, lower blood pressure, and better digestive systems.

But, you can’t see those benefits in the mirror.

We now know that washing our hands improves our health. But, at one time, people thought hand washing was irrelevant to health. We also now know that teeth improve with brushing. Imagine if we didn’t brush? Our teeth would rot. But, at one time, people didn’t brush.

These days, some advocates say your eyesight improves through eyeball exercises. The advocates say that rotating your eyeballs in circles, or staring at your index finger while moving it toward and away from your nose?and other exercises?help improve your vision. These advocates also suggest glasses act as mere crutches that do nothing to prevent age-related eye deterioration.

But many naysayers think eyeball exercises are useless.

Yet, researchers now believe that we can get smarter. But until recently, the view was that intelligence remained fixed?unchangeable.

So, Dan Hurley, author of Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power uses himself as a guinea pig to see if brain training spikes intelligence. But, let’s focus on some of the tools he considers using to increase his smarts: namely, first-person shooter games, Posit Science, Lumosity, and exercise. Hurley documents the following:

– Research suggests that first-person shooter games help improve peripheral vision, visual attention, speed, and accuracy. Evidence also shows that shooter games improve vision. Medal of Honor is one example of a first-person shooter game. First-person shooter games seem to make you visually better.
– Posit Science offers computerized training for people with severe cognitive disorders such as brain injuries and schizophrenia. Over 50 hours of Posit training can improve working memory in these patients. Modest gains also occur in memory, attention, and problem solving skills. Posit Science might make you a bit brighter.
– Lumosity offers cognitive training with a model that goes beyond Sudoku and crosswords. Research suggests that Lumosity’s computerized games improve memory, verbal fluency, and problem-solving ability. Sharper memory and clearer thinking also occur. Research indicates that Lumosity makes many mentally sharper.
– People who exercise “at least once a week performed 9.8 percent faster, solved 5.8 percent more math problems, and had 2.7 percent better spatial memory than those who never exercise” (p. 51). Exercise surely spikes your smarts.

Research suggests that two other ways to up intelligence may include learning to play a musical instrument and meditating, says Dan Hurley.

So, hit the gym, shoot some bad guys, and pick-up that learn-to-play-piano-visually book. And, for the skeptics, roll those eyeballs?for better vision, of course.