The trouble with focusing on study skills is that very often we neglect the other areas that all contribute to getting better grades in our exams.
Thanks to recent research, we’ve become more aware of how important it is for our bodies to be in good shape if we want a better memory and better grades in our exams. For years we neglected the obvious – the brain lives in the body! If you want your brain to perform well, doesn’t it make sense to give it all the support you can, by treating your body with respect – by providing a good balance of exercise and relaxation?
Improve the quality and balance of exercise and relaxation and you contribute to the overall health of both the body and brain.
Physical exercise is as important as other study skills. Exercise is now known to be the most reliable way to encourage the brain to create new brain cells. Aerobic exercise such as running, swimming, playing tennis and cycling help you to switch off from your studies, almost like a mental holiday. Obviously exercise improves your stamina – and you’ll need plenty of that when it comes to giving your all in the exam.
Other exercise (non-aerobic) such as Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi also act as a mental break. They improve your strength and have been shown to encourage relaxation, even in people who otherwise, left to their own devices, would be stressed and unable to switch off.
Your brain is approximately 2% of your body’s mass, but it gets 15% of your blood circulation. It also uses 20% of all the oxygen you consume. So when you exercise, your blood supply carries more oxygen and energy to your brain, invigorates you and wakes you up!
According to Dr Judith Wurtman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, simply standing up and stretching, walking around the room or doing a couple of sit-ups will help to speed up your metabolism, warm up your muscles and increase your brainpower.
As well as taking exercise, relaxation also has a very important place in your arsenal of study skills. Physiologically, our bodies are not designed to be hyperactive and stressed all the time. Our bodies need extended periods of calm just to stay healthy, never mind to allow you to enter the ideal learning state to do your revision. You already know that it’s impossible to think straight when you’re flapping about, panicking.
Your brain enters the ideal learning state when you are relaxed and focused. And research tells us that being relaxed and focused in the exams, will help you access the information you learnt while in that same state. So practising this as part of your study skills will inevitably help you get better grades in your exams.
There are lots of ways to train yourself to access this state when you need it. Taking a quiet and relaxing bath for example, taking a gentle walk, treating yourself to a sauna or simply sitting with a glass of wine (just the one mind!) in front of the fire will do the trick. Meditation is an excellent way to access this calm, relaxed state. You don’t have to be an expert to benefit. Simply closing your eyes and paying attention to your breath, making sure the out-breath is longer than the in-breath, is enough for you to notice that state of calm developing in your body.
If you’re not paying attention to getting good quality exercise and relaxation in your schedule, then your study skills are going to be missing key components to your getting better grades.
On the other hand, making sure you have a good balance of exercise and relaxation contributes enormously to your ability to keep up your revision schedule and do yourself justice in the exams. And let’s face it, that’s why you’re studying in the first place, isn’t it?