Exercise and Cognition
Just when we thought the benefits couldn’t get any better, recent research has indicated that exercise has a significant impact on the efficacy of our cognition. According to Gomez-Pinilla and Hillman, “aerobic fitness spares age-related loss of brain tissue during aging, and enhances functional aspects of higher order regions involved in the control of cognition.” This seems to have a dose-response relationship, since more fit people have been shown to process information more quickly and have the ability to attend to their environment and surroundings more efficiently.
This research also suggests that exercise helps improve the health of the nervous system and helps us to respond to challenges more effectively. According to Dr. Kelly McGonugal’s “Feel Better Effect,” exercise can physiologically help us handle stress better. This is because the physical reaction to stress is very similar to the physical reaction to exercise (increased heart rate, blood pressure, etc.). So, if we exercise regularly and associate the feeling of exercise with a positive and empowering experience, our default response to stressful situations will be similar.
Comparable cognitive effects have been seen with other components of a healthy lifestyle, such as diet. Further, consuming a healthy balanced diet can even compliment the effects of exercise.
In summary, JFK was not wrong when he said,“physical fitness is not only one of the most important key to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.” With mental health issues and neurological disorders on the rise, exercise is a simple way to fight back.
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Stephanie Spoto, CSCS