The University of Southampton

Fancy Frisbee? 'Healthier means smarter', says ECS researcher

Published: 4 August 2010

Students and researchers in ECS have been taking to the Frisbee field, led by ECS researcher dr mc schraefel, who is passionate about 'geek fitness'.

Starting from the growing field of evidence of the connection between exercise and intelligence, mc is convinced that smarter and more frequent movement will provide a competitive advantage.

"Movement, taking in oxygen, achieving a positive hormonal cascade from positive movement, gets us in a better state of awareness, alertness - and breathing - which is calming for creative brilliance," she says. "It also helps generate BDNF - what some in the field call the 'miracle gro of the brain' that enhances learning."

mc talks about research that shows learning a new skill like frisbee-throwing and coordination also gets the brain working to build new patterns. "Frisbee has two things going for it - it's aerobic to get the neurotransmitters and related hormones gassed up; it's also skills-based, which is building the brain network. Trying to get better at a forehand throw is doing great things for our ability to think better, learn better, perform better", she adds.

mc currently holds a Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research Fellowship, sponsored by Microsoft Research, and a significant proportion of her research is directed towards the impact of environment on the discovery and innovation process, especially factors which hinder creation.

She believes that exercise and physical activity are underrated by research environments, so systems could be geared towards illustrating that activity has benefit, particularly as obesity costs the UK £3.5 billion a year, and low back pain, stress and anxiety all contribute to absenteeism.

"We are not just brains with bodies,' she says. "We are a complex set of interconnected systems. We have brains, some argue, because we move. Isn't it ironic that now with our brains in this culture we tend to inertia? The result may be that we're compromising our brains by de-emphasizing our bodies. In fact we are designed to move. Our sedentary office environment violates the design we have to be most effective."

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