Studies show the long-term, positive effects of fitness on cognitive abilities

Posted on December 22, 2013

It has long been accepted that exercise cuts the risk of heart disease, and recent studies suggest a raft of more general benefits, such as reducing the risk of certain types of cancer and even preventing the onset of Type 2 diabetes. Now it seems that gym junkies can also expect a boost in brainpower, too.

This is not just the vague glow of well-being suggested by sayings such as “a sound mind lives in a healthy body.” John Ratey, a neoropsychiatrist at Harvard Medical School and others are finding that fitness has a long-term influence on a wide range of cognitive abilities. Physical activity seems to be important during childhood, powering the brain through the many changes that help us to mature into adulthood. But it may also play a role as we reach advanced age, with a decline in fitness explaining why some people are more prone to dementia than others.

“It’s a really amazing effect,” says David Raichlen, a biological anthropologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Raichlen is investigating whether our ancestors’ athleticism may have accelerated the evolution of their intelligence millions of years ago. Our brains may, in fact, be a byproduct of our brawn.

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Source material from Washington Post

Mental Health News