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Can Exercise Actually Make you Smarter?


Can Exercise Actually Make you Smarter?

You may be well aware of the implication regular exercise can have on your physical health, but what role does it play on the health of your mind?

Research shows that the effects of exercise may extend beyond disease and obesity prevention, potentially impacting your intelligence throughout your lifespan.

Studies have found that there are widespread changes in the structure of the brain post exercise.  After an extensive study, researchers at the University of Illinois found that:
  • increases in brain volume across a number of different regions, particularly areas in the front of the brain that are associated with attention, memory, behavioural inhibition and decision-making, in the group that did aerobic training but not in the stretching group.
  • increases in the volume of white matter tracts or large nerve fibres that connect different brain regions to one another. These tracts facilitate communication between the left and right sides of the brain.
This study shows that exercise seems to boost many aspects of cognition and mental function, even in younger adults.  Research has also linked exercise with improvements in attentional control, processing speed, working memory capacity, and the ability to switch between tasks. This means it’s likely to help you perform better at work, get better grades in school, learn new skills quicker, and make smarter decisions.

But neuroelectric activity is only part of the answer.

Scientists have determined that exercise increases production of beneficial hormones like brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), for example. BDNF boosts communication between brain cells and stimulates the growth and development of blood vessels and neurons in the hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for forming and organizing memories.

Several studies have linked exercise and the increased production of BDNF to increased hippocampal volume. The hippocampus, incidentally, shrinks with age and is the region of the brain that suffers the first and most profound damage when someone has Alzheimer’s disease.


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