It seems to me that we "CrossFitters" strive to suck the proverbial marrow out of everything we do. We come to a place where we exhaust our physical, neurological, and mental capacity on a daily basis. And we enjoy it.
We work our asses off outside of the gym, too. I’ve never met a CrossFitter who was content to simply meander up the corporate ladder or raise kids that were aggressively average. Nope, we charge full steam ahead at our careers and we raise badass kids that stand head and shoulders above their peers.
That relentless (sometimes masochistic) pursuit of excellence can be a double-edged sword, though. We often opt to bill a couple more hours instead of leaving work in time to make the evening Sweat Good class. It’s easy to buy into the lie that more time at work equals more productivity; that there is a direct correlation between the hours we spend staring at a computer and the quality of result we deliver for our client/boss/benevolent overlord.
The truth is, our physiology demands that we move in order to get the most out of our brains. Homo Sapiens evolved at a time when the world was warming rapidly, which meant they had to travel 10-12 miles a DAY on average to seek out new food sources. Because of that, we evolved to work best when we move often. This is especially true for kids and teens. In fact, in a study of over 1400 pairs of identical teenage twins, Swedish researchers found a very strong relationship between aerobic fitness and cognitive ability. The fitter twin was smarter. A lot smarter.
There are a lot of mechanisms that facilitate this “Fitness makes you smarter” thing: One of them is the release of a chemical called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which occurs directly after high-intensity exercise. BDNF acts on the hippocampus to increase your ability to process and retain new information. We actually give teens study materials for their hardest subject right after they train CrossFit Kids classes, because their brains are primed to CRUSH study time!
Kids aren’t the only ones who see this cognitive benefit; it works for adults, too. So the next time you’re stuck in a creative rut at work or you have a decision to make about a project, consider dropping in to a class instead of powering through the mental malaise. It’ll make you smarter, it’ll make you more efficient, and you might just increase your fitness while priming your brain to deliver a better product.
Oh yeah, and get your kids in CrossFit. Because who doesn’t want smarter, fitter kids?
If you want to learn more, check our Brain Rules by John Medina and Spark by John Ratey, or come find me in the gym!