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Study: Physical Fitness Linked to Brain Fitness

by Allie Bidwell, Education reporter for U.S. News & World Report

More physically fit children had stronger brain tissue linked to cognition.

Staying physically fit isn’t just good for your health. It’s also a good way to beef up your brain, according to new research.

Led by Laura Chaddock-Heyman, a research scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Beckman Institute, a team of researchers found greater aerobic fitness is associated with more fibrous and compact white matter, a type of nerve tissue connected to learning and brain function. Previous research has shown more compact white matter fibers can lead to improved cognitive performance.

[READ: Early Childhood Poverty Damages Brain Development, Study Finds]

“Our work has important implications for educational and public health policies, as sedentary behaviors and inactivity rise and physical activity opportunities are reduced or eliminated during the school day,” Chaddock-Heyman says. “Hopefully these findings will reinforce the importance of aerobic fitness during development and lead to additional physical activity opportunities in and out of the school environment.”

The researchers used a type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look at five different white matter tracts in the brains of two dozen 9- and 10-year-olds, half of whom were more physically fit and half were less fit. White matter also works to carry nerve signals between different parts of the brain, and all of the tracts examined have been associated with attention and memory, the study says.   Read more.

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