Does Exercise Make You Smarter?

If the typical goals of trimming waist lines, burning fat, and improving heart health aren’t enough motivation to squeeze in a workout, here’s yet another reason to go pound the pavement: it turns out intense exercise may actually improve brain function Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory. Erickson KI., Voss MW., Prakash RS., et al. Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, PA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2011 Feb 15; 108(7): 3017-22. The effect of acute aerobic and resistance exercise on working memory. Pontifex MB., Hillman CH., Fernhall B., et al. Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2009 Apr; 41(4): 927-34. Basal ganglia volume is associated with aerobic fitness in preadolescent children. Chaddock L., Erickson KI., Prakash RS. Department of Psychology, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL. Developmental Neuroscience 2010 Aug; 32(3): 249-56..

Work The Body, Improve The Brain — Why It Matters

The proof is in the papers— a whole fistful of ‘em! One study found that college students had improved accuracy and quicker results on memory tests after aerobic activity The effect of acute aerobic and resistance exercise on working memory. Pontifex MB., Hillman CH., Fernhall B., et al. Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2009 Apr; 41(4): 927-34.. And it’s not just for the youngin’s— another study found that elderly people who exercised over a 6-month period reported improved cognition on memory and intelligence tests Aerobic exercise training increases brain volume in aging humans. Colcombe SJ., Erickson KI., Scalf PE., et al. Beckman Institute, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL. The Journals of Gerontology 2006 Nov; 61(11): 1166-70..

While gaining a few extra IQ points might be nice, these small changes can also affect long-term success. One study found that those who regularly exercised showed improved cognition and higher IQ scores Cardiovascular fitness is associated with cognition in young adulthood. Aberg MA., Pedersen NL., Torén K. Center for Brain Repair and Rehabilitation, Institute for Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweeden. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2009 Dec 8; 106(49): 20906-11.. What’s more, the fitter of the bunch were more likely to embark on lucrative careers Cardiovascular fitness is associated with cognition in young adulthood. Aberg MA., Pedersen NL., Torén K. Center for Brain Repair and Rehabilitation, Institute for Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweeden. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2009 Dec 8; 106(49): 20906-11., so get ready say hello to the next Richard Branson, ma and pa.

Bigger Muscles, Better Brain? — The Answer/Debate

Don’t think pumping iron like The Terminator will be all that's needed to grow a few extra brain cells. The evidence points to aerobic exercise (not weight lifting) as a brain booster The effect of acute aerobic and resistance exercise on working memory. Pontifex MB., Hillman CH., Fernhall B., et al. Department of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2009 Apr; 41(4): 927-34.. The science shows the exercise needs to be rigorous enough to drastically increase blood flow to have any effect. Not much of a runner? High intensity interval circuit training can accomplish the same increase in blood flow. But beware: resistance training does not. So if one athlete is a model, it’s Lance Armstrong, not The Terminator. Sorry, Arnold.

Certainty Level

Einstein probably clocked in some miles on the treadmill. How else could he have been so smart?

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