Which sport keeps your psyche fit?

Which sport keeps your psyche fit?

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These sports activities strengthen cognitive performance

Sport not only strengthens the body, but also the psyche. But not every sport promises the same effect. Researchers at the universities of Basel and Tsukuba have now checked which sporting activity influences how much cognitive performance. They found out which sport is best suited to stay mentally fit. The corresponding study and the recommendations derived from it were published in the specialist journal "Nature Human Behavior".

"Exercise can improve mental performance (...), but the effects differ between men and women, and not every sport promises the same effect," the researchers report in a statement from the University of Basel. Based on a comprehensive evaluation of existing studies, the research team led by Dr. Sebastian Ludyga and Prof. Dr. Uwe Pühse from the University of Basel is therefore reviewing the effects of various sports activities on the psyche of men and women.

80 individual studies evaluated

Sport is generally considered healthy, but there are many different types of sport and very different forms of training. The researchers asked themselves what kind and what dose of physical activity best keeps the mind fit. They evaluated a total of 80 individual studies with regard to these questions and derived recommendations - for men and women.

Coordinatively demanding sports ideal

According to the results of the researchers, endurance training as well as strength training or a mixture of these components seem to improve cognitive performance. But coordinatively demanding sports, which require complex movements and interactions with other players, have a much stronger effect.

More sport equals better mental health?

"It is even more important to demand coordination in sport than the total amount of sporting activity," summarizes Dr. Ludyga. In addition, a higher total amount of sport does not necessarily lead to greater effectiveness for mental fitness. The effect on cognitive performance only increases if a longer period of time is observed per sports unit over a longer period.

Comparable effect in all age groups

In principle, it can be assumed that mental performance also changes over the course of a lifetime and that there is great potential for improvements in childhood (cognitive development phase) and in old age (cognitive reduction phase). However, the researchers in the current study “could not find any evidence of the different effects of sporting activity in the different age groups,” according to the University of Basel.

Joint sports offers for young and old

According to the researchers, sport activities do not have to be fundamentally different from elementary school to senior age in order to strengthen cognitive performance. This also means that different age groups can be brought together for a common goal in sport. "This is already being implemented selectively with joint sports offers for children and their grandparents," said Prof. Pühse. An expansion of these offers would be conceivable.

Men benefit more from hard training

The research team also found that the same dose of exercise in men and women affects mental fitness differently. "Differences between the sexes were particularly evident in the intensity of the movement, but not in the type of sport," emphasize the researchers. According to her statement, men benefit more from intensive sporting activity.

Extremely intensive training in women is counterproductive?

A hard workout seemed to be particularly worthwhile for men and a gradual increase in intensity over a longer period of time led to a significantly greater improvement in cognitive performance, the research team reports. In contrast, there is no positive effect on cognitive performance in girls and women if the sporting intensity increases too quickly. This suggests "that female athletes should choose a sporting activity with low to medium intensity if they want to increase their cognitive fitness," the research group concluded. (fp)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • Sebastian Ludyga, Markus Gerber, Uwe Pühse, Vera N. Looser, Keita Kamijo: Systematic review and meta-analysis investigating moderators of long-term effects of exercise on cognition in healthy individuals; in: Nature Human Behavior (published March 30, 2020),
  • University of Basel: How sport promotes mental fitness: current recommendations (published April 16, 2020),

Video: Your Brain on Exercise (July 2022).


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