Kids Who Exercise Become Smarter Adults, Scientists Discover

A study has made a positive connection between childhood exercise and improved cognitive function in later life. According to the study, adults who were physically active up to 12 years of age as children, showed higher cognitive functions. No such association was made for those who participated in post-childhood physical activity. (1)

Exercise And Intelligence Study

The research group included Professor MATSUDA Tetsuya of Tamagawa University’s Brain Science Institute and Assistant Professor ISHIHARA Toru from Kobe University’s Graduate School of Human Development and Environment. The study showed exercise strengthened inter-hemispheric connectivity, increased cortical thickness, and decreased dendritic arborization levels in hand with density. (1)

Childhood Exercise And Intelligence

As children, our brains are susceptible to environmental and experience-related factors. Because of this, exercise for children could optimize the brain’s network development. Considering this, researchers believe physical activity during our childhood is tied to the maintenance and promotion of cognitive function in adults. (1)

Cognitive Function, Exercise And Intelligence

Although past studies have tied childhood exercise to the development of cognitive functions, the most recent research specifically indicates the benefits in adulthood. The study was conducted using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to see what is involved with the structural and functional changes in the brain of 214 adults. (1)

Exercise And Intelligence Study Method

Participants were between 26 to 69 years of age and provided insight into the underlying functional and structural neural networks and cortical structure changes. The difference between the two connections is that structural connections are anatomical nerve fiber connections, while functional connections have similarities in patterns of neural activity. In hand with a questionnaire used to assess the adult’s childhood exercise, researchers measured participants ability to suppress inappropriate behaviors using a Go/No-go task. (1)

Exercise And Intelligence Study Findings

The MRIs showed those who exercised up until the age of 12 had a lower false alarm rate than the adults who did not exercise regardless of their current age. This did not apply to those who participated in post-childhood exercise. When looking at structural connectivity in the brain, the Go/No-go task performance confirmed positive associations and negative associations between exercise during childhood and the false alarm rate in the Go/No-go task including: (1)

  • In 73% of the structurally connected area positively associated with the Go/No-go task false alarm rate, large-scale network connectivity was found.
  • 88% inter-hemispheric connectivity was found in the structurally connected areas that were negatively associated with the task’s false alarm rate.
  • This with connections showing positive Go/No-go task false alarm rate associations exercised, but they did not show negatively associated connections.
  • Large-scale network connectivity was found in 91% of connected areas that were positively associated with the task’s false alarm rate.
  • Non-exercisers showed no structural or functional connectivity related to the false alarm rate in the Go/No-go task.
  • For cortical structure parameters and the Go/No-go false alarm rate for exercisers, task performance was negatively associated with cortical density, yet positively associated with the degree of density and neurite orientation dispersion.

In simple terms, this fascinating study found that adults who exercised as children made less mistakes in the Go/No-go tasks. They believe this was due to modular segregation and strengthened inter-hemispheric connections in their brain networks. (1) Encouraging children to exercise may be one way to ensure that they become smarter adults.



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