The genuine proof that exercise makes you smarter!
Exercise is such an important part of a healthy life. A daily workout—anything from 15 to 60 minutes—is vital for keeping up your strength, endurance, and flexibility. It can also boost your mood, enhance your sex life, and improve the quality of life overall. That’s not including the whole weight loss and fat burning aspect. But did you know that exercise can also make you smarter? That’s right: a bit of training goes a long way for your brain!
A team of researchers at the Boston Medical Center conducted a study that examined the effects of exercise and fitness on the human brain. The researchers gathered both healthy young (between the ages of 18 and 31) and older (between the ages of 55 and 74) adults. The fit adults were subjected to treadmill testing to assess cardiorespiratory fitness, as well as MRI scans to monitor their brain activity.
The participants were shown pictures of unfamiliar faces, and were told to remember the names. The MRI scans showed their brain activity as they learned, as well as when they tried to remember the names they had learned.
The research found some pretty interesting things. First, it was discovered that older adults had a harder time remembering the correct names to associate with the unfamiliar face. No surprise there! The older we get, the less malleable our brain gets, meaning it becomes more difficult to learn new things.
However, the adults with the higher fitness level tended to perform better on the tests. The fit older adults not only performed better on the memory tests, but their brain activity increased compared to their less-fit counterparts. The brain activity actually took place in the parts of the brain that tend to stop functioning with age. This indicates one very important thing: fitness can help to protect your brain!
Age can be your brain’s worst enemy. Not only do you lose a lot of brain cells over the course of your life, but the build-up of amyloid plaque (a common side effect of aging) can lead to decreased plasticity and connectivity of the brain tissues. Your brain struggles to send electrical signals to the various parts, meaning the communication between the sections of your brain becomes more challenging. Among other things, this can lead to memory problems such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
But, as this study showed, exercise can help to protect your brain against this degradation. Not only will exercise improve your body, but it will also give you a leaner, meaner mind.
The interesting thing about this study was that it targeted memory specifically. Memory is one of the areas of neurological function that most commonly declines among older adults. Concentration and focus may remain intact, but the ability to learn new things and recall stored information can become difficult.
It turns out cardiorespiratory fitness is the key to protecting your brain function. A bit of exercise every day—jogging, cycling, lifting weights, running, rowing, swimming, walking, hiking, playing sports, and the list goes on—can help to improve your brain function. Not only will you improve your mood and enhance overall wellness, but you will protect the parts of your brain responsible for learning and remembering new things. Considering how vital technology is to modern life and how much that technology is evolving every year, this is VERY important. If you’re going to keep up with the changes the future will inevitably bring, it’s time to focus on your exercise to keep your brain in shape!