Running makes you smarter

Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other tests, the researchers recently analyzed the mental abilities and brain structure of athletes who have been exercising for 15 years or more, and compared the results with ten non-exercising people of the same age who had a similar level of education. They found that the athletes had better white matter fiber integrity than people, who do not workout.

White matter is an essential part of the human nervous system and constitutes the communication system for the brain. While the “gray matter” has the power for the neurological processing of motor control and memory, the white matter is responsible for transmitting those signals. Researchers believe that the gradual deterioration of white matter is one of the main reasons that people lose memory and motor control with age.

According to a Finnish study, the exercise has to be “aerobic and continuous”. They also checked the effects of the currently popular “high intensity interval training” (HIT), as well as resistance training. While the team found little response after HIT, there was no response after resistance training. So HIT will slightly improve your cognitive abilities, while weightlifting, apparently, will not make you smarter.

Intense aerobic exercise like running indeed encourages formation of new brain cells, but they are basically stem cells waiting to be put to use. Exercise does not create new knowledge, but acts as a preparation for learning. It’s up to us to invest some active work too. Integrating exercise into your working or studying day would be a favorable solution.

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