Can exercise sharpen the mind?

Could exercise be a simple solution to sharpen the mind and improve mental performance?​

In a unique study, competitive mind gamers from around the world agreed to increase their exercise levels and measure the impact on their mental performance.​

Could exercise take the participants’ game to the next level?

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Could the sharpest minds get even sharper?​

ASICS invited mind gamers from across many different mind sports to be part of the study, overseen by Dr Brendon Stubbs, a renowned researcher in movement and the mind.​

From chess players to speed-cubers, Esports players to memory experts, all participants relied on brainpower to compete in their chosen mind sports. However, all were largely inactive, exercising for less than 30 minutes a week.​

Could boosting their exercise levels boost their brainpower?

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Training the brain with exercise. ​

Each mind gamer followed an exercise training programme designed by international coach, Andrew Kastor. The programme consisted of cardio and strength training and increased the gamers’ exercise levels to 150 minutes a week over 16 weeks.​

Alongside noting participants’ international gaming ranking, Dr Stubbs measured brain function and overall wellbeing at the start of the research period. The test data was collected again at the end of the four-month training programme to measure the impact of the exercise plan.

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The results surprised even us…

Participants’ international gaming rankings improved by an incredible 75%. Group confidence levels increased by 44%, concentration improved by 33%, and anxiety levels plummeted by 43%. ​ The mind gamers’ cognitive function was also boosted on average by 10%, showing exercise was as effective at boosting brain function as learning a second language, reading daily or completing a puzzle every day.¹

Watch ‘Mind Games - The Experiment’ documentary. ​​

Inspired by the experiment, ‘Mind Games – The Experiment’ follows the journeys of competitive mind gamers as they take on regular exercise to improve their rankings on the international stage. ​

The feature-length documentary, narrated by Stephen Fry, features four gamers – Kassa Korley, Ryoei Hirano, Ben Pridmore and Sherry Nhan– who specialise in Chess, Mahjong, Memory sports and Esports.​

Watch the documentary trailer here.


Meet the mind gamers.

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Sherry Nahn

Professional Street Fighter competitor from California. ​

Could exercise give Sherry the edge to make it onto the stage at one of the largest gaming tournaments in the world? ​

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Ben Pridmore

Former Memory Champion from England. ​​

After an 18-year absence, could exercise be the secret sauce Ben needs to get back on the podium? ​

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Ryoei Hirano

Riichi Mahjong player from Japan. ​​

After not competing for three years, could exercise sharpen Ryoei’s mind in time for the world championship?

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Kassa Korley

International chess master from New York. ​​

Could exercise be the catalyst Kassa needs to finally start to beat Grandmasters and help him realise his dream of becoming an African American Grandmaster? ​

“ASICS founding philosophy is literally in our name, Anima Sana In Corpore Sano meaning a Sound Mind in a Sound Body. We have always encouraged exercise for both physical and mental benefits, but this is the first time we have explored the true impact on cognitive functioning. ​

The ‘Mind Games – The Experiment’ documentary shows the power of exercise to sharpen the mind, and we hope that after watching the documentary, everyone – regardless of their age, body type or fitness level – is inspired to move to help boost their brain.” 

Mark Brunton, Managing Director, ASICS Oceania