Monday, October 29, 2012

Physical exercise makes you smarter

Exercising is a good way to stay healthy and reduce the chance of acquiring 'modern' diseases such as diabetes or obesity. Recently, scientists have also shown that it can prevent a number of other diseases, such as alzheimer's and breast cancer. And if that was not enough, intense workouts were also shown to increase life span. It is commonly known that everybody, for their own sake, should at least do some exercise, but not everyone feels inclined to do so. A study from the Montreal Heart Institute provides yet another reason to exercise, as they have shown that it not only improves your physical capabilities, but it also makes you smarter.

Couch potatoes
In order to investigate whether physical exercise influences the brain, the scientists selected a number of people that can be classified as real couch potatoes: they were all overweight and did not exercise at all. The rationale for researching the use of muscles in relationship to the brain is quite clear: movement is organized in the brain and it was already shown that muscle tiring starts with signals coming from the proverbial grey matter. In the Montreal study, participants were forced to exercise twice a week, with efforts consisting of bike and circuit weight training.

After four months, all of the subjects showed a marked increase in their physical capabilities, as is to be expected. For instance, the participants were found to have decreased in weight and had more capacity to exercise, which is expressed as the maximum oxygen consumption, or VO2 max. But, perhaps surprisingly, the researchers also found an increase in the cognitive abilities after four months of work outs. As it turns out, the more you exercise, the more you improve your physical capabilities, but this is also proportional with the increase in cognitive abilities.

This study provides important information for the fight against cognitive decline that is associated with age. Every human being slowly deteriorates in terms of brain function, and scientists have been searching for ways to slow down this process. As it turns out, simply exercising may be an effective way to hang on to your grey matter.

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