My mom and I have been discussing the link between exercise and how it improves cognitive performance. We all know that exercise is beneficial to our overall health, but it is also one of the best things you can do for your brain health? Here’s how…
Exercise of any sort releases endorphins, chemical compounds that make us feel good, calm the mind, and allow the body to relax. That’s why so many people use working out as a stress reliever. However, exercise does a little more to our bodies, especially as we age. A study called Ageing fitness, and neurocognitive function¹was done on 124 adults with ages ranging from 60 to 72. There were 2 groups who were either given a 6-month plan for walking (this was considered the aerobic group) or flexibility training (this was the non-aerobic group). The aerobic group showed marked improvement in their cognitive performance while the non-aerobic group did not.
Not only does exercise help when it comes to cognitive function as we age, but it also seems to help in the original development of that cognitive function as children. A study² looked at children 7 to 12 years old as they completed specific cognitive tasks and physical fitness tests. They found that those who performed better on the fitness tests also performed better on the cognitive tests. This was within all ages, genders, and base intelligence levels.
It also seems that the type of exercise you do can have varying effects on brain health. A new study³ has come out showing that low and high intensity exercises affect the brain differently. This study concluded that low intensity exercise triggered the areas of the brain responsible for attention processing and cognition control, while high intensity exercise triggered the area responsible for emotional processing. While more studies need to be done to expand on these findings, these results are very promising in understanding how our brains respond to very specific exercises.
Keep your body moving and your brain healthy simply by moving more. No matter the age, it’s never too early or too late to start making exercise a regular part of your daily life.
1 Kramer, A. F., Hahn, S., Cohen, N. J., Banich, M. T., McAuley, E., Harrison, C. R., … Colcombe, A. (n.d.). Ageing, fitness and neurocognitive function.
2 University of Illinois, & Urbana-Champaign. (n.d.). The Relation of Aerobic Fitness to Stroop Task Performance… : Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2008/01000/The_Relation_of_Aerobic_Fitness_to_Stroop_Task.23.aspx
3 Exercise Effects on Cognitive Function in Humans, Schmitt, Angelikaa; * | Upadhyay, Neerajb | Martin, Jason Anthonya | Rojas, Sandrac | Strüder, Heiko Klausr | Boecker, Henninga, Journal: Brain Plasticity, Published December 26th, 2019