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The Exercise-Intelligence Link

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By Allan Holmes August 30, 2010

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It's pretty much understood that sitting in front of your computer all day without routine exercise can lead to some unhealthy outcomes. But getting up and walking for, say, just 40 minutes three times a week can not only slim you down, it can actually increase cognition and fight aging.

That's the finding of a new study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. For a year, researchers from the University of Illinois followed adults aged 59 to 80 who had been previously sedentary but then joined a walking or stretching and toning group. They also studied 18 to 35 year olds, and looked at activity in brain regions that function together as networks and how they are affected by exercise.

At the end of the year, the walkers in the study had more activity in certain parts of the brain. For example, they had increased connectivity in parts of the so-called fronto-executive network, which aids in the performance of complex tasks, and they did significantly better on cognitive tests than those who were a part the less tasked toning and stretching group. According to Science Daily:

Previous studies have found that aerobic exercise can enhance the function of specific brain structures, [said psychology professor Art Kramer, one of the leaders of the study]. This study shows that even moderate aerobic exercise also improves the coordination of important brain networks.

A past study Kramer conducted also showed that older workers who were more fit than their peers tended to be better at planning, prioritizing, strategizing and multitasking - the latter being particularly important to IT workers.

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