Three Ways Being Active Affects Your Brain

A growing body of research shows that being inactive as well as being active affects your brain in profound ways. Here are three effects worth noting.

  1. Promoting Cognitive Function in Youth. In children and adolescents, physical activity appears to promote better thinking abilities and better performance in school. A new study in Psychoneuroendocrinology adds to the literature. Investigators showed that aerobic exercise interacts with neurological growth factors in adolescents to produce better cognitive function in adolescents. The growing data on this subject makes past decisions to limit physical activity in schools seem very unwise.
  2. Preserving Cognitive Function in Aging. The obsolete notion that brain structure and function could not improve in adulthood has been refuted by a number of findings that show improvements in both for older adults with appropriate programs of physical activity.
  3. Diminished Neurologic Function with Inactivity. Fascinating research in the Journal of Comparative Neurology lends support to the notion that inactivity can alter sympathetic neurologic function in a way that would add to cardiovascular risk. This finding comes from a small animal study that will doubtless lead to further research. But it reinforces the notion that inactivity has profound physical effects, including neurological effects.

Add the benefits for your brain to the benefits for the rest of your body and finding pleasure in new ways to be active should rise to the top of your list.

Click here and here to read more in the New York Times, here to read more about effects of physical activity in aging brains, here to read the study in Psychoneuroendocrinology, and here to read the study in the Journal of Comparative Neurology.

Brain Nebula, photograph © Ivan Ezhikoff / flickr

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