Pulling on your sneakers to head out for a run or brisk walk does more than benefit the muscles that carry you along. It also might provide a mental edge.
A fit body is associated with a fit mind.
That’s a finding from a study out of Germany. It shows that volunteers who performed well on a two-minute walking test tended to have better cognitive performance in tests than slower, less-fit counterparts.
Scientists were able to examine MRI brain scans of the 1,200 volunteers, which showed that heightened fitness seemed to benefit the structure of the white matter in participant’s brains, a sign of healthy nerve connectivity.
In this group, who on average were about 30 years old, cognitive function fell as fitness dropped. And that left researchers surprised. They noted one would expect this result in a population of older subjects, not in people this young.
So, scientists say, poor fitness is a risk factor for poor brain health. But on the bright side, it’s a modifiable risk factor, particularly for younger folks who don’t face physical barriers to exercise.
That exercise is good for the mind is becoming more accepted. Previous research has suggested exercise can help stave off dementia, improve memory and help alleviate depression.
But this study controlled for numerous things that have tended to muddy results. Those include body weight, blood sugar levels and education, among others.
Researchers say the next question to be answered is whether people can improve their brain fitness by getting in better shape. That isn’t necessarily a given.
What is a given is that exercise is good for overall healthy. That’s a no-brainer.