What if regular exercise is the best cognitive exercise?

File this under highly speculative. I’m sure there is better research on this topic than this writing

This past week, for no obvious reason, I considered a few thoughts at the same time:
  • Exercise is supposedly one of the best anti-aging “drugs”, and also highly effective (relatively speaking) against cognitive decline
  • There’s this vague idea that after you become “professionally inactive”, you accelerate your cognitive decline
  • To avoid cognitive decline, one must keep “exercising the brain”, so the incentive for seniors to have hobbies, do crosswords, sudoku, etc
Now, from this point it seems that I’d go to a very commonplace conclusion about how exercising is probably better than sudoku or something, and to be frank that’s exactly where I’m going. But another two things crossed my mind at the same time:
  • Recent advances in AI, and less recent advances in computing in general showed that a lot of the things we consider “cognitively hard” - from symbolic manipulation to arithmetic, “drawing” and even reasoning - can be reproduced by computer machinery a lot simpler than we originally thought, at a (likely) higher than human level in the near future
  • Robots still have a hard time navigating terrain and manipulating stuff
Now, I understand that Deep Learning AI is a different field than robotics and it isn’t that easy to translate advances from one field to the other, but bear with me

So, here’s the speculation / thesis: exercising, that is, operating our bodies at a higher than baseline level, with everything that entails - energy regulation, unconscious balancing, spatial awareness, etc - requires more computing power than crosswords, sudoku, finding relations between measure theory and first-order logic through category theory, etc


  1. We expend lots of computing energy and resources in training AI.

    Where would 'learning' fit in your analogy?

  2. Interesting thesis. It would be nice is someone with professional knowledge of this area would comment on this post as this was #1 hacker news today

  3. First of all, I am all into exercising as way of improving brain power. Having said that, computing can be wasted on some useless computation, like finding a random hash that starts with like 20 zeros, in the case of mining of Bitcoin. In such analogy exercising might be useless computation in some regards


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