Coordinated sports that require interaction with other players are more effective at improving cognitive performance than other activities.
It has long been known that exercise is good for both the mind and body and that sporting activities can bring about a long-term improvement in cognitive performance across all age groups.
Now, researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland have analysed findings from previous studies to discover which sports have the best impact on mental fitness and how the effects differ between men and women.
They found that while endurance training, strength training or a mix of the two seems to improve cognitive performance, coordinated and challenging sports that require complex movement patterns and interaction with fellow players are significantly more effective.
“To coordinate during a sport seems to be even more important than the total volume of sporting activity,” explained Dr. Sebastian Ludyga.
The results also showed that a higher total extent of activity did not necessarily lead to a higher level of effectiveness for mental fitness. However, exercising for a longer duration does promise a greater improvement of cognitive performance over time.
When comparing the differences between men and women, the researchers discovered that men benefit from physical activity more than women in regards to mental fitness.
This is most evident in the intensity of the movement rather than the type of exercise. A hard workout with a gradual increase in intensity leads to a significantly greater improvement in cognitive performance over a longer period of time in men.
In comparison, for the greatest increase in mental fitness, women should choose low to medium intensity sporting activities.
The findings were recently published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.
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