Did you know that physical activity helps improve the brain?
Getting outside in the summer for outdoor activities, especially rigorous physical activity, is not only fun but great for your brain. It helps improve memory, executive function, and overall cognitive performance.
In 2019 there was a study published in the Journal, Scientific Reports, which was conducted by Dr. Jonathan Repple from the University Hospital Muenster, Germany. The study showed that physical fitness is associated with better brain structure and brain functioning in young adults. Study Article
It is kind of intuitive that improved fitness results in better mood, clearer thinking, and mental fitness but no one has ever really studied does it have an actual cognitive impact to the brain. Previous studies had not controlled for underlying causes such as body weight, glucose levels, and other factors that can impact cognition.
Dr. Repple and his team were able to access over 1000 MRI scans and utilize those same volunteers for additional physical and mental testing. Study subjects completed a 2-minute walking test and then completed a series of mental tests. Following is an excerpt from the study highlighting their conclusions.
“The tests were able to show two main points: better performance on a 2-minute walking test in young healthy adults is associated with better cognitive performance, and with structural integrity of the white matter in the brain: healthy white matter is known to improve the speed and quality of nerve connections in the brain."
Repple continued, "It surprised us to see that even in a young population cognitive performance decreases as fitness levels drops. We knew how this might be important in an elderly population which does not necessarily have good health, but to see this happening in 30-year-olds is surprising. This leads us to believe that a basic level of fitness seems to be a preventable risk factor for brain health.”
Note that the physical activity used in the study was walking. So, it is not saying that you have to go join a gym. There are a wide variety of activities that can help keep us fit, including swimming, playing sports, hiking, and other good summer outdoor activities.
Go outside, have fun, and while improving your physical fitness you will improve your brain fitness as well. You will feel better and improve memory, executive function, and increase healthy white matter in the brain.