Brain Activity and Exercise


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There has been a recent calling for scientific evidence that links exercise and brain activity.  Most of the studies done obviously suggest that more physically active people have an increased brain activity later in life.  With that suggested, I looked into two different studies, one of which was done by the University of Illinois and the other by the University of New Mexico.  In the study done by the University of Illinois, researchers examined 241 individuals that were instructed to report their physical activity.  After they had reported that information, they were instructed to perform specific cognitive tasks such as reaction time and response accuracy.  All of these specific tasks involved the "executive" area of the brain which is involved with everyday life cognitive tasks.  The study found that there were improvements when examining both younger and older age group when it came to reaction time but, in the end they were not sure whether or not exercise improved cognitive ability or merely protected the brains cognitive ability later in life.

 

In either conclusion, there is a potential positive effect of exercise on cognitive activity.  However, the study was flawed in some ways.  First of all, the sample size of the study was not large enough for a hypothesis that would take into account a great portion of individuals.  Additionally, the study was observational in nature.  They asked the participants to record their own physical activity instead of dividing the sample into different groups.  The participants easily could have lied about their physical activity and thus skewed the results.  Additionally, there was no control group established in the experiment.  In order to do so, the study would have needed to separate the groups into physically active vs. not physically active and then examined cognitive ability.

 

The next study I looked into done by the University of New Mexico was very similar to the previous study.  However, it examined exercise and cognitive ability in both children and elderly women.  In the study involving children, it suggests that children 4-18 years of age who exercised at higher rate than others ultimately had a greater perceptual understanding of life tasks.  Such tasks include scheduling, planning, etc.  Additionally the researcher suggests that the study shows that if a person exercises more at an early age, it will protect their cognitive development with age.  Although positive, the study did not show any biological reasoning, it merely suggested conclusions.  It is well known that exercise helps new nerve cell generation; however, it is not known how this would affect cognitive development/protectiveness.

 

In my research, I found no article that linked exercise and cognitive ability in a negative way. This makes complete sense.  However, with all of the positive conclusions from studies, there is still no answer to what exercise exactly does to the cognitive ability of human being.  What part of the brain does it affect?  Which exercise is the best for brain development?  These questions along with many more show the complexity of scientific studies and the reason why they take so long to find casual links.  

 

References:  

1.  http://www.news.illinois.edu/news/06/1218exercise.html

2.  http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz%0A/Article%20folder/brainandex.html        

   

 

2 Comments

I agree with this article completely. It is hard to prove that exercise helps the brain, but it is a good conclusion. I think working out helps all the parts of the brain in some way because of the increase in blood flow. This article takes an interesting look at the topic:

http://www.positscience.com/brain-resources/everyday-brain-fitness/physical-exercise


Hey Tyler,
I think it's really neat that going to the gym can benefit me in more than one way. Getting huge, of course, being number one, and two, to exercise my brain. I've been wondering why I've been getting so much smarter, guess it's all that time in the gym. Anyhow, I feel like any organ in the human body needs consistent use to keep from getting 'rusty' and it makes sense to me that physical exercise can help with just about everything in the human body. Here's some more positive effects of exercise http://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/slideshows/7-mind-blowing-benefits-of-exercise

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