Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Are Triathletes Smarter?

Ha, I got your attention and yes of course we are! Research linking optimal brain function to exercise continues to mount. More importantly, exercise that is aerobic in nature like running, biking, hiking, aerobics classes, and swimming shows greater improvement in stimulating brain activity than stretching, toning and weight lifting. According to Henrietta van Praag, PHD, a lead investigator at the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute of Aging, activities such as strength training don’t activate the brain in the same way and may be more restricted to the muscle itself. However, don’t underscore the importance of strength training, Pilates or yoga. Strong muscles and flexibility are critical requirements for independence and mobility as we age.

Aerobic activity has been shown to improve cognitive function in the areas of learning, memory and multitasking. While this research is still in its early stages, the results have been consistent throughout the life span, regardless of age. Furthermore, the type of activity does matter! Positive growth in cognitive function occurs only when the blood gets pumping. Children who have higher fitness levels score higher on standardized achievement tests, particularly math and reading. Older adults show a 39% reduction in developing cognitive impairment such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some research even suggests that women have a greater cognitive response to exercise then men, who am I to dispute science?