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Fitter bodies = fitter brains. True at all ages?

The results of recent­ly pub­lished stud­ies sug­gest that fit­ter chil­dren also have fit­ter brains. It looks like exer­cis­ing your body pro­motes brain health. Is this true at all ages? How does it work? How much exer­cise should we do?

Phys­i­cal activ­i­ty and brain health in chil­dren

An emerg­ing lit­er­a­ture sug­gests that phys­i­cal activ­i­ty and high lev­els of aer­o­bic fit­ness dur­ing child­hood  may enhance cog­ni­tion. In the 2 most recent stud­ies by Kramer and col­leagues (2010), the cog­ni­tive per­for­mance and the brains of high­er-fit and low­er-fit 9- and 10-year-old chil­dren were exam­ined.

In one study, fit­ter chil­dren did bet­ter than less fit chil­dren in a task requir­ing to ignore irrel­e­vant infor­ma­tion and attend to rel­e­vant cues. Fit­ter chil­dren also had larg­er basal gan­glia (more specif­i­cal­ly dor­sal stria­tum) than less fit chil­dren. The basal gan­glia play a key role in cog­ni­tive con­trol (e.g. prepar­ing, ini­ti­at­ing, inhibit­ing, switch­ing respons­es).

In anoth­er study, fit­ter chil­dren did bet­ter than less fit chil­dren in a task requir­ing to mem­o­rize infor­ma­tion. Read the rest of this entry »

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