More Proof That Exercise Boosts Brain Power

Exercise isn't just good for your body. All that moving helps your mind too


You know staying glued to your desk chair all day isn't going to get you anywhere close to your fitness goals. But there's another reason to get moving: brainpower.

A new study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport looked into how physical activity (or lack of) affects how well kids grasp key educational skills like reading and math. The study looked at 153 Finnish children between the ages of 6 and 8, measuring their activity through heart rate monitors and movement sensors and evaluating their smarts using standardized school tests. The boys who spent the most time sitting and least amount of time moving had poorer reading skills than the rest of the group, and there was a similar effect on the math skills of the youngest boys. Conclusion: Encouraging young boys to get moving may boost their performance in the classroom. (+1 for those of you on team recess!)

Interestingly, the study researchers found the link only among boys and didn't find to any strong correlations for the girls. But there's good news if you're reading this and not a 7-year-old boy (you know, all of you): Eero Haapala, the lead author of the study, says he expects sedentary adults who increase their physical activity would also see positive effects on their brain, cognition, and learning abilities.

Other research outside of this study supports this idea, too. Most studies that focus on activity and cognition deal with young children or elderly people, so a few Stanford University researchers set out to see what would happen for adults in general. They assigned 144 people between the ages of 19 and 93 to two groups: one that exercised on a stationary bike for 15 minutes or one that spent the 15 minutes sitting. The researchers tested each participant's working memory before and after the 15-minute session and found those who exercised had faster reaction times than the control group.

In another study, researchers found that fit young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 have larger entorhinal cortexes (the part of the brain responsible for memory) compared with their less-fit peers. Not only will hitting your daily step-count goal or exercising on the regular help your brain now, but it could also keep you sharp as you get older, too, the researchers found.

So, go ahead and hop out of your desk chair. If anyone questions why you're doing laps around the conference room, say it's all in the name of more brainpower.

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