The Study Dude—Exam Focus? Get Fit!

Do you want to focus like Superman during exams?  Well, focus works the brain like windshield wipers works windows.  But you focus clearest without the pigeon’s package.  So, start wiping!  Or, better yet, exercise.

Elie Venezky, author of Hack Your Brain, says, “Focus is a muscle, and you can build it” (as cited in  To do that, you need to meditate and eat brain foods, like blueberries.  Or drink ginseng, take ginkgo biloba, and memorize lists.  When you combine the above, focus steadies like Michael Moore’s gaze on a rainbow-sprinkle Timbit.

Another trick is to quit caffeine (and decaf).  If you ever tried studying after a Redbull-induced spat, you’ll know it doesn’t work.  On the flipside, caffeine-free-calm-moods lead to less conflict.  And less conflict leads to, yes, focus.  If Mike Tyson gave up Redbull, he may never have spat out that ear.

But the most underrated way to focus is exercise.  I’ve been training hard for ten months.  I started with daily walks but have been upping the ante monthly.  For instance, just last month, I added ankle weights and negative chin-ups to my routine.  Due to the hard training, I’ve grown calm, yet energized—and focused.  Like the Dalai Lama drip tortured with Redbull.

But the worst thing for focus?  Anxiety!  Yes, that fuzzy headspace.  To prevent anxiety at the workplace, I try to cycle to work and back.  And in the evenings, I’ll lift weights, stretch, and, to round-out the fun, shadow box..  But remember: ten months ago, I could barely walk a block unless someone threw a hamburger a-block-and-a-half away.

What keeps me motivated is the feeling I get.  You know, that feeling built from the struggle on day one to the euphoria ten months later.   You, too can have that feeling.

Another great feeling?  Reading Anders Hansen’s excerpts on how exercise boosts focus in his book The Real Happy Pill: Power Up Your Brain by Moving Your Body.  My hope is that you, too, will fine-tune your focus with exercise.  Here’s what Hansen says:

  • The fast way to foster focus? “We become more focused—and otherwise more alert—through exercise” (location 856 of 3512, 24%).
  • Exercise boost selective attention: “The Eriksen test …. indicated that the participants who were fit … had better selective attention” (location 866-878, 25%).
  • And exercise activates parts of your brain that sharpen focus: “The parietal lobe … and the frontal lobe—parts of the brain that are vital to our ability to be and remain focused—were more active in the subjects who were in good shape” (location 878, 25%).
  • Exercise boosts dopamine, which aids in focus: “Lacking dopamine can lead us to become unfocused and jittery, distracted …. Is there any … way to boost dopamine levels without resorting to pharmaceuticals?  There is: move your body” (location 1042, 30%).
  • And exercise works better than ginkgo biloba or brain games: “Research clearly indicates that what truly puts our extra ‘mental concentration’ gear to work is physical exercise, not diet supplements or apps with cognitive exercises” (location 1208, 34%).
  • Even walking sharpens focus: “Engaging in physical activity as simple and uncomplicated as regular walking for six months didn’t simply improve selective attention; it produced a measurable effect on the brain” (location 899, 25%).
  • But for the best focus, try running or cycling instead of walking.
  • And do half hour or more of fitness: “You should be active for at least twenty minutes, but thirty minutes is better to enjoy the full benefits” (location 1234, 35%).
  • Exercise treats ADHD: “I realize that, throughout my life, working out has been a type of ADHD medication” (location 991, 28%).
  • Even five minutes of fitness helps ADHD: “As little as a single five-minute exercise session improves concentration and lessens ADHD symptoms in children” (location 1118, 32%).
  • Why care about ADHD? We’re all a little bit ADHD: “Just as exercise and physical training help the ADHD sufferer to focus, it can assist the rest of us whose attention occasionally goes on a walkabout. After all, we’re all perched somewhere along the ADHD spectrum” (location 1197, 34%).

My boyfriend has a keen mind.  He remembers math and physics formulas from decades ago.  As for me, I barely recall the integral of x.  Not him.  He’s got it all tucked away in a powerful mind.

We figured out why he’s so sharp.  Since his teen years, he trained hard.  After decades of training, he boasts a keen, focused, and stress-resilient brain.  So, start training today to shine with the sharpest.