Aerobic Exercise Boosts Body and Brain Health
A study of more than a million young men has shown those who were in the best physical shape also performed best in intelligence. The study appears to validate long-held beliefs that physical and mental health work together in harmony. Dr. Maria Alberg, a neuroscientist who performed the study at Gothenburg University in Sweden stated, "These results support the notion that promoting physical exercise could serve as a public health strategy to optimize educational achievement."
Researchers used data collected from all male Swedes born from 1950 to 1976 who enlisted for military duty at age 18. They found cardiovascular fitness signified increased intelligence, with higher performance on cognitive tests and further educational achievement. However, though many different measures of cardiovascular strength were linked to better mental performance, muscular strength was not considered to be a factor in mental performance. Multiple studies have taken place on this subject, linking physical fitness to cognition, but the studies have usually been performed on older adults or children. The few studies performed involving young adulthood, which is a time when the brain is changing and cognitive traits are being established, has been inconclusive. Dr. Alberg discussed the brain's ability to adapt to new situations, environments or the effects of an injury, which she termed "brain plasticity," and noted that physical exercise greatly impacts this process.
Dr. Alberg stated that, "Change in physical achievement between ages 15 and 18 predicted cognitive performance at age 18. Moreover, cardiovascular fitness during early adulthood predicted socioeconomic status and educational attainment later in life. To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate a clear positive association between cardiovascular fitness and cognitive performance in a large population of young adults."
The sample in the Gothenburg University study involved 1,221,727 men, and their heart rates were measured by using a stationary bike called an "ergometer." Dr. Alberg explained that, "During early adulthood, a phase in which the central nervous system displays considerable plasticity and in which important cognitive traits are shaped, the effects of exercise on cognition remain poorly understood. Cardiovascular fitness, as measured by ergometer cycling, positively associated with intelligence. In contrast, muscle strength was not associated with cognitive performance."
A study from Saarland University in Germany found that exercise protected chromosomes from damage and led to longer cell life. Scientists have also discovered that long term physical activity has anti-aging effects all the way to the cellular level. These studies indicate that regular aerobic exercise will lead to higher cognitive function and better cell health. It may seem like common sense, but if you're still wondering why ... maybe it's time to get up and move!