Bethesda, Md. (July 25, 2011)It's no secret that exercise has numerous beneficial effects on the body. However, a bevy of recent research suggests that these positive effects also extend to the brain, influencing cognition. In a new review article highlighting the results of more than a hundred recent human and animal studies on this topic, Michelle W. Voss, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her colleagues show that both aerobic exercise and strength training play a vital role in maintaining brain and cognitive health throughout life. However, they also suggest that many unanswered questions remain in the field of exercise neuroscienceincluding how various aspects of exercise influence brain physiology and function and how human and animal studies relate to each otherand issue the call for further research to fill in these gaps.
The article, "Exercise, Brain and Cognition Across the Lifespan," is published in the online edition of the Journal of Applied Physiology.
Using the findings from 111 recent studies, the researchers write a brief review showcasing the effects of aerobic exercise and strength training on humans ranging in age from children to elderly adults. They relate these findings to those in lab animals, such as rats and mice, which provide a window on the pathways through which exercise may enhance brain function.
The review suggests that aerobic exercise is important for getting a head start during childhood on cognitive abilities that are important throughout life. For example, physical inactivity is associated with poorer academic performance and results on standard neuropsychological tests, while exercise programs appear to improve memory, attention, and decision-making. These effects also extend to young and elderly adults, with solid evidence for aerobic training benefiting executive functions, including multi-tasking, planning, and inhi
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American Physiological Society