Brief aerobic exercises helps to improve mental fitness

Estimated reading time: 1:46 min.

This article is verified by 2 studies/publications.

Most of us know the Latin saying “Mens sana in corpore sano,” which translates to “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” While the Roman who first coined this phrase might have meant something different, it’s often used today in sports and education to highlight the importance of physical activity for mental well-being.

A 2018 study from the University of Reims in France showcases the direct connection between the two[1]. In the study, 101 students assessed their energy levels and mood at the beginning. They also completed the Trail Making Test Parts A and B, which mainly measures visual attention by asking participants to quickly and accurately connect a series of 25 dots. The test provides insights into visual search speed, processing speed, and mental flexibility[2].

Too long; didn’t read (Summary)

  • In a university study, researchers examined the immediate effects of short running sessions on cognitive performance.
  • Participants were tested for visual search speed, processing speed, and mental flexibility before and after the running session, and the tests were repeated after the session.
  • One group ran for 15 minutes on campus, while the other group performed relaxation exercises.
  • Results showed that the running group performed significantly better in the repeated tests.
  • The researchers attributed this improved performance to an emotional effect, as the runners felt stronger and more energetic.

Emotional Effect Boosts Performance

After that, the group was split into two roughly equal parts. 51 people ran for 15 minutes on the university campus, while the other 50 did guided relaxation exercises. Both groups then repeated the tests.

The running group performed significantly better in the tests, especially in terms of speed and attention.

The researchers found that it wasn’t the exercise itself that caused the improvement, but rather the emotional effect it had. After running, participants generally felt more energized and stronger. This feeling alone seemed to be enough to perform better in the tests. On the other hand, the relaxation group was more relaxed but likely not as ready for peak performance.

This shows that the famous proverb isn’t just relevant for long-term health but can also be applied immediately. This insight could come in handy in everyday life. For instance, before an important meeting where mental performance is crucial, short physical activity might be more beneficial than relaxation exercises.


  1. Brief aerobic exercise immediately enhances visual attentional control and perceptual speed. Testing the mediating role of feelings of energy. Fabien D. Legrand, Cedric Albinet, Anne Canivet, Fabien Gierski, Isabella Morrone, Chrystel Besche-Richard. Acta Psychologica, 2018, Volume 191, Pages 25-31, ISSN 0001-6918,
  2. Effect of physical layout in performance of the Trail Making Test. Arnett, J. A., & Labovitz, S. S. Psychological Assessment. 1995. 7(2), 220–221.