When it comes to achieving that feeling of a ‘good workout,’ the popular consensus is that this comes from pushing your body until it fatigues. After you have completed one of these tough and sweaty workouts how did you feel afterward? Of course, your muscles are tired and fatigued but have you ever finished working out and felt a bit dumb or felt like you couldn’t comprehend or process something someone said to you? Or have you ever tried to write something after your muscles are exhausted and looked at your handwriting just to see that it looked like your five-year-old self just wrote that?
A lot of research has been done on the effects of working out in relations to our muscles and our bodies but not a lot of research has been on the after effects of these types of workouts on our brain and other possible effects, until now.
A new study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine shows that training beyond fatigue can actually do more harm than good when it comes to learning and getting better at skills or tasks. Their research was able to determine that when people work to fatigue it impairs their motor skill learning mechanisms in the brain and affects the memory formation needed for people to learn a new still but just not learn it, retain the new skill. This was discovered because even the untrained muscles were also affected and not just those that were put through exhaustion. Which means, when it comes to exercising, it may be best to skip your morning or lunch workout and partake in the evening instead. Otherwise, you may not be able to effectively perform at your highest level while at work or whatever else follows your morning or mid-day workout.
“The study findings showed that participants learned slower, even on the day after a rest period, if they previously trained beyond exhaustion. The harmful effect was even reflected in poorer performance of the hand that did not practice the test initially. The researchers say the lasting negative effect of fatigue on the ability to learn after the body recovers can be a result of the brain memorizing the wrong way of performing and learning that develops during fatigue.
In future studies, the Johns Hopkins researchers hope to explore whether stimulating certain parts of the brain can revert the negative effect of fatigue and allow people to resume unimpaired learning.”
Even though this research shares a lot more about the brain and how training affects it than research in the past, there is still a lot more research that needs to be done, so until then, we leave it up to you to determine when you’d like to work out. What we would like you to do though, is pay attention to these motor skills and brain capabilities after your workout. We would even challenge you a step further to see if you can tell when this ‘impairment’ seems to taper off. There might be something to be said in how long the effects last before you are back to full capacity.