Exercise through playing coordinated and challenging sports helps improve mental fitness. This finding was made by researchers at the University of Basel in Switzerland and the University of Tsukuba in Japan. The researchers analyzed 80 individual studies in the scientific literature on the impact of different types of sports, exercise and training on mental fitness. Their recommendations on the best type of physical exercises to support mental fitness were published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.
Coordinated, Challenging Sports
According to the researchers, endurance training, strength training or a mix of these physical exercises seem to improve cognitive performance. However, they found that 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,” said Sebastian Ludyga, one of the researchers.
More Exercise Not Always Best
Also, more exercise does not necessarily mean better mental fitness, according to the researchers. To get more mental fitness benefits from doing more physical exercise activity, you need to perform the exercises over a longer period of time, the researchers said.
Different Ages Can Play Together
Our mental fitness tends to decline over time as we age. However, the researchers did not find any type of age-related physical activity that stood out as effective to improve and support mental fitness. Whatever physical activities people did in their youths are not much different from the physical activities they do during their later years when it comes to improving and supporting mental fitness.
In effect, we don’t have to fundamentally change the type of physical and sports activities we do when we were young up to when we get older. Different age groups can thus be combined for a common goal during sports. In fact, mixed aged sports activities can be expanded to benefit both young and old.
“This is already being implemented selectively with joint exercise programs for children and their grandparents,” says Uwe Pühse, another of the researchers.
Intense Exercises More Effective in Males
The researchers also found that the same amount of sports activity has a different effect on physical fitness for men and women. Intense workouts for men and boy, if gradually increased over time, have greater impact on cognitive performance over a longer period of time. However, if the intensity is increased too quickly in girls and women, this benefit disappears. For females, they should choose low to medium intensity sporting activities if they want to increase their cognitive fitness.
Play a Complex Team Sports
In summary, if you want to maintain your mental fitness throughout your life, play coordinated team sports like soccer, basketball, etc. Also, different age groups can participate together in the sports and still benefit. If you’re a female into intense workouts, choose low to medium intensity sporting activities and don’t increase the intensity too quickly. Take your time and you’ll also get mental fitness benefits from your physical workout.