Physical activity is good for both physical and mental health. To reinforce the fact, a recent study by researchers at the University of Arizona established the connection between improved brain function and intense aerobic activity.
The researchers found that activity that features locomotion increases neuroplasticity more than activities that are more dependent on hand-eye coordination, such as golf or tennis. The researchers examined endurance runners. They were into multitasking while navigating terrain, obstacles and other considerations. Their brains coordinated a myriad of simultaneous commands. They must exercise self-awareness and control to pay attention between tasks. All these led to greater brain connectivity, the study said.
The researchers examined 22 subjects, including a group of 11 athletes who were distance runners and a control group comprising 11 nonathletes. The individuals were selected from the community who had not participated in organized sports or activity for the past year.
Three measures were employed to gauge overall aerobic fitness. The participants were also made to fill a fitness questionnaire. The researchers conducted MRIs on the athletes and the non-athletes during and after the study. The MRIs revealed different results for each group.
They found evidence of different brain connectivity patterns in the athlete group. These patterns existed in active and resting states. The study authors said, “Our results show that differences between expert endurance athletes and non-athlete young males included both enhanced positive connectivity as well as anti-correlations between (brain) regions.” Further, the researchers hypothesized that endurance running may “engage these connected regions, while enhancing connectivity through increased aerobic activity.”
Regular exercise keeps the brain focused
The distinct patterns involved the frontoparietal network (FPN). This region of the brain is associated with mediated cognitive functions, including aspects of the memory. The FPN is also associated with executive functions, including planning and motor controls. These patterns were not nearly as pronounced in the non-athlete control group.
Of the many results proved by the study, the researchers emphasized that exercise-induced neuroplasticity should be studied with respect to aging and the detrimental effects of aging on the brain. The study lends credence to the hypothesis that regular exercise keeps the brain intact and focused.
White River Academy is a residential treatment facility and school for young men with behavioral health problems. Located near the Great Basin in Utah, WRA combines a challenging academic curriculum with civic duties and outdoor activities. We also attend to the behavioral health needs of our students. We offer counseling, group activities and therapies to ensure each student receives the highest in evidence-based treatment. Contact the helpline listed on this webpage for more information.