Well, she did.
The work was inspired by a psychologist’s theory that being strong results in a person performing better with a number of cognitive abilities. In Ms. Martin’s case, her relative strength gave her an advantage while in high school, when she was one of the top swimmers in America. But the added benefit of her strength extended well into her academic career. In her first year of high school, she remembers her first professor of pre-calculus saying she was doing the questions correctly, even though she was noticeably much weaker than all of her classmates. By the end of the school year, Ms. Martin was the only one in her class who did math and had very good grades, just above an A+.
But even before she became a pre-calculus student, Ms. Martin began to hear whispers from her father about the differences between strong and average students. In her future years of school, she began to be noticed and praised for her excellence by people she had never met.
“It was an overwhelming feeling,” she said. “I was not prepared for that, that I could be on the end of an applause line.”
Not only does her brain benefit from her athleticism, but her physical activity also heightened the polygenic size of her brain, according to the research. But there is a problem: When it comes to high school athletics, strength training will do more harm than good. A 2005 study showed that pre-calculus test scores correlated with strength training in higher-income boys, but did not in lower-income boys.
“What they’re really looking for are the long-term effects,” Ms. Martin said.
But since physical activity is so important to her life, she is taking classes toward a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, focusing on nutrition and eating disorders. She is already leaning toward the education that can help counteract the likely damage to her body.
“If we want the best athletes, we have to have a plan for their bodies post-sports,” she said.