Who is smarter…
LeBron James, basketball supah-star OR Neil deGrasse Tyson, astro-geek?
Greg Phelps, water wunderkind OR philosophy-phenom, Martha Nussbaum?*
Maybe a better question is; who is better able to use the brains they have?
Granted, the uber-athlete is not going to be able to compete head-to-head with the mental-mighty-man in a straight-up brain battle. At least, not in the mental-giant’s chosen field. But what if we look at each person in terms of mental potential? Who gets the best from what they gots. Sure, Nussbaum and Tyson are smart, but could they be smarter? Research to the rescue…
Your brain is a part of your body. Let me say that again lest it go right by; your brain is a part of your body. It sounds obvious when put that way, but in the West we tend to draw a line between the two. We are tempted to think that they are somehow separated, as if one is not affected by the other.
As a society, we often think the athlete isn’t overly burdened with brains and the genius is better off sticking to the chess board rather than the diving board. Our stereotypes perpetuate this attitude; think of the muscle-head or the pencil-necked geek. We think that athletics and academics are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
But consider this; world-class athletes are careful about anything that impacts their performance. Whether an athlete is a runner or a swimmer, a boxer or a ballerina, a fencer or a footballer; they pay close attention to what, when, and how much, they eat, sleep, and exercise. They do the right things at the right times in the right amounts to give their bodies the proper fuel to perform at peak condition, enhance endurance, and make muscle. Their success depends on these sorts of things, so they make them a priority.
The brainiac may indeed perform better in the classroom than on the tennis court, but could it be that she would perform even better in the classroom if she spent more time on the tennis court? Is it possible that taking better care of yo’ body boosts the abilities of the most energy-hungry organ in yo’ body–your brain?(1) In fact, research shows that a powerful way to maximize your mental might is by getting plenty of exercise.
Since the brain is as much a part of the body as your heart or stomach, it too responds to healthy habits including exercise, proper diet, and plenty of rest. Abuse your body, and your brain won’t perform at peak condition. Over the last hundred plus years, scientists have discovered more and more about exactly what works best for our brains. We know how much to study at a time and how much studying is actually too much. We know what physical activities make our brains work better, as well as which ones will cost us IQ points. Surprise, surprise. Habits that help athletes also help mathletes.(2)
While LeBron may not be smarter than Neil when it comes to astronomy and Usain Bolt may lag behind Nussbaum in philosophy, the research is clear; your brain performs better when your body is healthier. So get up off that chair and get some exercise. You can call it studying.
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(1) Swaminathan, Nikhil. 2014. ‘Why Does The Brain Need So Much Power?’. Scientificamerican.Com. Accessed August 1 2014. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-the-brain-need-s/.
(2) Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov,. 2014. ‘Exercise: A Behavioral Intervention To Enhan… [Trends Neurosci. 2002] – Pubmed – NCBI’. Accessed July 18 2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12086747.
*I mean no disrespect to any of these people. For all I know, Nussbaum and Tyson may be ultra-marathoners. Of course, then we would have to question their sanity.© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.