Olympic Games: if Executive Functions were a sport

Mens sana in corpore sano”, as the Romans said 2,000 years ago: “A healthy mind in a healthy body”. Despite popular belief, the brain is not a muscle, but its development requires training that is sometimes worthy of a sport! To coincide with the Paris Olympics, Babaoo has created a little game - a sort of Chinese portrait - to help you discover which sports the Executive Functions might correspond to.
Babaoo The Mag Olympic Games: if Executive Functions were a sport
Olympic Games and Executive Functions

Would you like to find out which sports could help improve your Attention, Inhibition, Working Memory, Flexibility or Planning? Babaoo Mag has the answer! ⬇️

Teamwork for joint victory

Although Executive Functions develop independently, they are also considered to be unitary. It is, in fact, by working together that they enable the Brain to act on our learning. Attention, Inhibition, Working Memory, Flexibility and Planning would undoubtedly do well competing individually at the Olympic Games, among the many and varied disciplines offered by the world’s most popular sporting competition. Yet it’s as a team that they perform best! 🏆

For example, all sports involving a game rule with victory conditions (such as scoring a point in a team ball sport), call on Executive Functions: you need to understand and memorize the rule, know where the target is that allows you to score (e.g. goal), and spot the conditions that will lead to victory (position of team players, quality and precision of passes and shots). Acting too early (or too late!) or missing an opportunity to make a decisive pass are behaviors that could be likened to a lack of executive function development. ⚽

Like complete sports such as soccer, basketball or field hockey, our five Executive Functions act as a team to carry out complex actions. But if each were a sport, which discipline would best illustrate it?

🎯 Attention and shooting sports

If you’ve ever played darts or aimed at a target in archery, you’ll immediately understand why these sports happen to be linked to attention. This Executive Function enables us to observe the environment and connect to what’s important to succeed in a task at hand. Putting our Attention on a target and adjusting our gesture to ensure the correcthttps://babaoo.com/en/the-mag/all-you-need-to-know-about-attention-interview-with-jean-philippe-lachaux/#li trajectory of our shot, therefore, illustrate the substance of this Executive Function!

🏃 Inhibition and coordination sports

When practicing a sport in competition, an athlete, whether professional or amateur, rarely has time to say “Stop” to himself or herself and think for a moment about his or her strategy. Yet for certain sports, such as fencing or diving, which require excellent control of one’s movements, Inhibition is certainly the most important Executive Function. Indeed, to succeed in fencing or diving (alone or in pairs), skills like Coordination, as well as Precision, are essential… or else you’ll end up making a mess!

This is also the case for relay races and sprints, for which athletes need to concentrate on starting neither too early, nor too late, so as not to lose precious seconds. At the starting line, you have to be able to say “stop” and control yourself, right up to the starting signal.

🤸 Working memory and artistic sports

Some sports require more memory capacity than others: in artistic gymnastics, dance, figure skating, for example. It’s not just a question of remembering choreography, but alsobeing able to manipulate it if need be.

Working Memory is regularly confused with short-term memory. Yet, even if the two notions are quite similar, they don’t concern the same thing, since Working Memory presupposes, in addition to memorization, a manipulation of information. Knowing the entire choreography of your gymnastics floor routine is short- or long-term memory. Knowing the choreography and being able to move certain sequences while keeping the rhythm of the music is Working Memory.

🎽 Flexibility and endurance sports

Moving from one sport or activity to another requires very significant physical and mental capacities. Sports practices such as Triathlon, Heptathlon and combined sports in general require Flexibility that is controlled and, above all, mastered.

This Executive Function enables adaptation to novel situations, so it’s closely linked to creativity. It’s also what enables us to switch quickly from one task or sport to another, and to juggle several rules within the same game. For example, offsides in soccer or lanes on tennis courts which, depending on the context of the game, may or may not be relevant.

⛰️ Planning and strategic sports

All sports played, whether at amateur or professional level, require Planning upstream. In addition to physical and mental preparation, there can be strategic preparation (we all have in mind the image of the coach who briefs his players before the match, using a board and little counters representing the positioning of each of them on the pitch!). All this is Planning, which consists of establishing steps and anticipating obstacles to achieve precise objectives.

Climbing is another excellent example of a sport where Planning plays an essential role. Before each climb, you have just a few minutes to observe the wall, platform or cliff you’re about to climb. These few seconds of preparation enable you to plan each of your future movements to reach the summit as quickly as possible.

The Babaoo recap

Individually or grouped together, the Executive Functions all bring a different skill to the practice of a sport. Attention, Inhibition, Working Memory, Flexibility and Planning play an essential role in our ability to concentrate, understand the rules of a sport, manipulate them and progress with each training session. 🏋️

From soccer to climbing, fencing to artistic gymnastics, the benefits associated with these sports are important both for physical and mental health, but also for the development of certain skills.

In the summer of 2024, the 33rd Olympic Games of the modern era will be held in Paris, an opportunity to discover new sports and watch athletes from all over the world show passion, willpower and strength by using, each in their own way, the abilities that Executive Functions give us. 🥇

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