The notion that exercise and physical activity can have positive effects on your health beyond simply developing a fitter body is hardly revolutionary. As research continues to explore the ways in which remaining active can improve other things like brain function, studies consistently bolster the notion that exercise and strong cognition are more interconnected than we may think.

 

In one recent study which sought to explore more thoroughly the correlation between children’s brain development and cognitive function, researchers at the University of Indiana discovered that, in fact, engaging in physical activity regularly had the ability to stimulate brain development.

 

Researchers at the University of Indiana have found that engaging in physical activity can successfully speed up and enhance natural brain development in kids ages 8 - 9 (5minutesformom.com)

Researchers at the University of Indiana have found that engaging in physical activity can successfully speed up and enhance natural brain development in kids ages 8 – 9 (5minutesformom.com)

The study divided a group of 220 children, ages 8 and 9, into two groups. One group served as the control group and remained more or less unaffected in terms of daily routine; the other group became part of a year-long program which had them engaging in physical activity in the form of games like tag or learning new skills, like dribbling a soccer ball. This physical activity would take place every day after school for two hours, of which about 70 minutes of the two hours included moving at a moderate or vigorous pace when taking into account breaks and periods of rest.

 

At the end of the study — aside from the fact that those children who had been a part of the test group showed significant improvements in terms of physical health — researchers observed, through a series of cognitive tests given to both groups, that the children who engaged in exercise on a regular basis showed serious improvements in cognitive capabilities when compared to those in the control group. Abilities like multitasking and blocking out distractions when performing a task were both things that the group exposed to physical activity were able to show a marked improvement over the control group.

 

Of course, this study was comparing brain development in subjects’ who were at an age at which the executive functioning of the brain naturally experiences a strong level of development anyway. Therefore, the idea here was to see if exercise could enhance that natural process, a theory which it managed to prove.

 

Research has shown that by working out, older individuals can improve brain function such as memory recall (tennysoncourt.com)

Research has shown that by working out, older individuals can improve brain function such as memory recall (tennysoncourt.com)

While this particular studied found that physical activity could serve as a catalyst with the ability to speed up and enhance already occurring brain development during childhood, there are a number of others which have been conducted to examine the relationship between physical activity and cognitive functioning. These have found also found a positive relationship between the two even in subjects belonging to older age groups.

 

For example, a German study which observed the link between exercise and the brain found that in elderly subjects between the ages of 60 and 77, physical activity — even if only mildly demanding — could improve the flow of blood to the brain and such functions as memory recall, as a result. Meanwhile in younger subjects, similar improvements in cerebral blood flow and visual memory were observed.

 

What can we learn from all these studies’ findings linking increased physical activity to improved brain activity? We have one more reason to get our bodies moving! As science continues to back the theory that exercise may do as much for our brains as it does for our bodies, it becomes doubly important to maintain an activity lifestyle. And the younger we start, the greater the benefits we can reap from exercise and staying active, both physically and mentally.

 

Did you know that exercise could be just as beneficial to your brain as it is to your body? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or tweet me @tamarahoumi