3 ways to use exercise to boost your focus

by | Jun 7, 2013 | Focus

Takeaway: Exercise improves your focus. To get the most benefit from it, do a lot of aerobic exercise while balancing that with other types of exercise. And don’t over-train.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 41s.


Not only does exercise have the ability to make you even sexier than you already are, it also can make you a lot more focused. According to a number of studies, exercise produces a ton of benefits that will improve your focus. It:

  • First and foremost produces “positive changes in concentration, stress, energy, and well-being1
  • Increases blood flow to your brain, improving your mental cognition and ability to focus
  • Actually creates new brain cells2, building up the empire that is your brain
  • Like meditation, works out your attention muscle, and improves the “brain circuits that underlie [your] ability to think”3
  • Enhances your mood, impulse control, memory, and energy levels, which are all factors that influence how focused you are.4

Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 4.38.32 PMSo it’s pretty clear – exercise will improve your ability focus. But how exactly can you use it to boost your focus? Here’s what the research says:

  1. Aerobic exercise will improve your focus the most. One study found that participants who only stretched “had increased activation in some areas of the brain but not in those tied to better performance”, but participants who performed aerobic exercise had the most improved focus and decision-making ability.5
  2. Make sure you don’t only do aerobic exercise. In other words, while cardio may be best for your focus, balancing a few exercise types, like yoga, weight training, and cardio, will make you the most focused.6 This lets you reap the benefits from all types of exercise – for example, “only yoga produces improvements in mood and self-satisfaction”.7
  3. Don’t over-train. According to the author of How to Get Focused, “as soon as you push yourself beyond a certain limit, your alertness will significantly drop”.8 Not overtraining will keep you running at your peak.

Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons put it well in their book, The Invisible Gorilla, when they said “exercise improves cognition broadly by increasing the fitness of your brain itself”. If you care a lot about productivity and focus, exercise is something you should work into your daily routine, particularly if your brain is front and center in how productive you are.

This post is a part of Focus Week – a week where every post has to do with improving your focus.

  1. http://docs.rwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=honors_theses 

  2. http://www.howtogetfocused.com/chapters/how-exercise-increases-focus 

  3. http://news.illinois.edu/news/04/0216exercise.html 

  4. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jennifercohen/2012/05/08/6-ways-exercise-makes-you-smarter 

  5. http://docs.rwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=honors_theses 

  6. http://www.howtogetfocused.com/chapters/how-exercise-increases-focus 

  7. http://docs.rwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=honors_theses 

  8. http://www.howtogetfocused.com/chapters/how-exercise-increases-focus 

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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