Does exercise improve the cognitive ability of the brain?


From a previous stump the staff question, we learned exercise protects your brain from the normal deterioration that occurs with aging.  Specifically, exercise has a positive impact on the health/condition of the brain’s white matter.  White matter is the connective material of the brain.  Exercise minimizes white matter shrinkage and slows the development of white matter lesions.

The assumption was that better white matter health helps maintain cognitive ability, but the study did not directly measure it.

A new study attempted to measure cognitive ability.  The study reviewed MRI brain scans of 1,206 volunteers.  They then had the volunteers complete a two-minute speed walking for distance test and then a series of cognitive tests.  Beyond white matter health, the study revealed that better performance on the two-minute walking test was associated with better cognitive performance.

The most surprising element of the study was the average age of the volunteers was 30.  This indicates, regardless of age, that cognitive performance decreases as fitness levels drops and that fitness seems to be a preventable risk factor for brain health.

The next logical progression is to determine if increasing fitness levels leads to improved cognitive ability.

The following websites were used as references in answering the question: