Aerobic activity greatly increases a person’s blood-oxygen supply. The benefits extend to every part and tissue in the body, including the brain. The more oxygen the brain receives, the better it can function.
An inadequate supply of oxygen brings incoherent thoughts, dizziness, and fainting. Without oxygen, brain cells begin to die within about five minutes. I once had an aunt who suffered from chronic emphysema after smoking all her life. As she neared the end, she constantly complained about feeling confused. Of course, this was because her brain was receiving so little oxygen that she couldn’t hold coherent thoughts.
An unconditioned person, who does not do regular aerobic activity but is otherwise healthy, will not experience the same dizziness and incoherency as someone with chronic emphysema, but his mind is far from working at the peak performance that it is capable of. In general, physically unconditioned students have a low academic aptitude and have difficulty learning, due in part to reduced memory power. Of course, there are many exceptions to this rule. Some unconditioned students may even excel academically, but the performance is not as good as what it might be.
Regular aerobic activity will tend to optimize the brain’s oxygen supply. Even a slight increase in the oxygen level produces a noticeable improvement. With an enriched oxygen, supply the brain works much more efficiently. The mind is clearer and more alert. Concentration is more easily focused. Memory improves, making learning easier.
Regular aerobic activity can also dramatically affect a person’s character and self-discipline. In military academies such as West Point it has long been noted unconditioned cadets have a much higher drop out rate because they are not able to absorb the training and discipline of military life. In general, their academic aptitude is also much lower.
Over time, the effects of regular aerobic activity produce a very conspicuous improvement in a person’s self-image and sense of self-worth. This has a positive effect on a person’s mind-set toward every goal set before him. The noticeable changes and improvements in his body bring a strong sense of accomplishment which translates itself into an attitude of self-confidence.
In military establishments like West Point, where discipline and fitness are a must, it has long been established that the best athletes are usually also the best students and become the best officers. Kenneth H. Cooper, the Air Force doctor who wrote the manual on aerobic activity for the U.S. Air Force and Navy (also used by the Royal Canadian Air Force), noted dramatic transformations in the disposition of the cadets. As they became conditioned by aerobic activity, introverts became extroverts, and those prone to anxiety became self-confident and were able to relax more easily.