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Exercise and Brains

Posted 11/15/2016

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  The title here, Exercise and Brains, is not related to all the discussion re sports and traumatic brain injuries. It is also not related to the kinds of thinking that may be most associated with athletes or locker room talk. Instead, I am thinking about this new study from the UK that suggests that regular exercise may improve executive functioning in our brains.

  As you likely know, executive functioning refers to a set of brain processes that enable us to organize ourselves towards a goal. Much of what we do daily (making lists, focusing on a task, going through the mail or paying bills) falls into this big category.

  We know that exercise is helpful in all kinds of ways: mood improvement, energy boosts, weight maintenance, cardiac health, perhaps reducing the risks of some kinds of cancers and then reducing the risks of possible recurrences. Now we are adding this to the list. And I am feeling really guilty about not going to the gym this morning.

  Healthy living equals better brain function
Research suggests feedback loop between greater executive function and healthy behavior

It should be obvious that those with greater self-control live a healthier lifestyle. After all, it takes self-control
to exercise before work, or forego fried food for kale.
But new research suggests living a healthier lifestyle could also increase executive function, which is the ability to exert self-control, set and meet goals, resist temptation and solve problems. In effect, the study suggests a feedback loop exists where greater executive function enables people to lead a healthier lifestyle, which in turn, improves their executive function.
"It seems that physical activity and EF are synergistic -- they improve one another," according to the study,
titled "A Bidirectional Relationship between Executive Function and Health Behaviors."
The study, published by researchers at the University of Aberdeen, the University of Stirling and the University College Dublin, used data collected from 4,555 adults through the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. Researchers analyzed the relationship between physical activity and executive function, adjusting for other variables such as age, gender, education, wealth and illness and found evidence that the relationship betweentwo is bidirectional. It is the first study of its kind to look at whether the effects are bidirectional and has expanded the understanding of such relationships.

Read more (and lace up those sneakers):


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