Certain things are best done in the bathroom. The closest thing to an interruption is a polite knock on the door, and a soft quiet is maintained. Ample mirrors provide for satisfactory self-inspection. In short, the bathroom is the ideal place for thinking and critical thought. The bathroom is place of solace and silence, a retreat from the stresses of life. After a long day of work, toddlers, homework, clubs and activities, head there to reflect on the day past and the days ahead. In fact, some of the best thinking is done in the bathroom. Ideas emerge somewhere between the toilet and the shower, the mind is allowed to wander as there is usually little need to exert a high degree of concentration during toiletry tasks. But visits to the toilet are not the only catalysts for increasing brainwaves and creating ideas, accumulating evidence suggests exercise benefits learning and memory, which may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Exercise-induced improvements in learning and memory are achieved through neurogenisis (creation of new brain cells) and neuroplasticity (creation of new pathways) allowing the brain to form new neural connections (Vivar et al., 2013).
So aerobic exercise creates new brain cells (Nokia et al., 2016). These new cells then cluster in portions of the brain critical for thinking and recollection. These cells are basically stem cells that will adapt to the environment to which they are exposed (Moon et al.). Running and exercise does not create new knowledge, it provides the mental equivalent of a sharpened pencil and clean sheet of paper. It prepares the brain for learning, but you have to actively do some learning to take advantage. Integrating exercise into working and schooldays would seem like a sensible option. This was highlighted when researchers at West Virginia University evaluated the fitness levels and standardized academic test scores of 725 Grade 5 students in Wood County, West Virginia, and re-examined the results two years later when the children were in Grade 7. The study found that academic performance dipped when the students’ fitness declined and increased when fitness improved. Children with the highest average standardized test scores, which included reading, maths, science and social studies, were the ones who were deemed fit at the start and end of the study (Cottrell et al., 2007).
Increased fitness allows people to better maintain attention and learn by promoting the growth of new neural pathways in the brain, preventing degeneration, and encouraging the growth of blood vessels in key parts of the brain, thereby increasing the supply of nutrients and energy to those areas (Luque-Casado et al., 2016). Taking toilet time to reflect and regain focus is important but lace up, step out the door, and give the brain a chance to grow.
Cottrell LA, Northrup K & Wittberg R. (2007). The extended relationship between child cardiovascular risks and academic performance measures. Obesity (Silver Spring) 15, 3170-3177.
Luque-Casado A, Perakakis P, Hillman CH, Kao SC, Llorens F, Guerra P & Sanabria D. (2016). Differences in Sustained Attention Capacity as a Function of Aerobic Fitness. Med Sci Sports Exerc 48, 887-895.
Moon Hyo Y, Becke A, Berron D, Becker B, Sah N, Benoni G, Janke E, Lubejko Susan T, Greig Nigel H, Mattison Julie A, Duzel E & van Praag H. Running-Induced Systemic Cathepsin B Secretion Is Associated with Memory Function. Cell Metabolism 24, 332-340.
Nokia MS, Lensu S, Ahtiainen JP, Johansson PP, Koch LG, Britton SL & Kainulainen H. (2016). Physical exercise increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis in male rats provided it is aerobic and sustained. J Physiol 594, 1855-1873.
Vivar C, Potter MC & van Praag H. (2013). All about running: synaptic plasticity, growth factors and adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Curr Top Behav Neurosci 15, 189-210.