Pumpin’ Iron – And Your Neurons Too!

Ok, here’s another “fairly important” reason why you want to start that workout program as soon as possible:  exercise increases your intelligence.  forget about images of the dull-witted muscle bound clod, that is a myth.  People who exercise regularly are often smarter than those who do not, and if you begin an exercise regimen you can expect a noticeable difference in a few short months.  It’s true.  The writing is on the wall – the research blackboard that is, and here are a couple of things we have found out in recent years:

Originally it was thought that exercise benefitted the brain only because it provided a generally healthier overall environment for it to function:  more oxygen delivered, better vascular network, etc., now we can see concrete physiological changes clearly attributed to it.  Some recent findings:

Exercise increases levels of BDNF – brain derived neurotropic factor, a growth factor protein prevalent in the forebrain, the cortex and the hippocampus.  These are all areas involved in memory and critical thinking.  Perhaps this is one reason why regular exercise can help to alleviate that so called age related memory decline.  (See my earlier post “brain fog“)  It may also explain why exercise eases depression.

One large study from a few years back looked at 1.2 million new recruits in the Swedish military.  They found that the enlistees who had a high level of physical fitness (not merely good health)  had a correspondingly higher IQ than the others tested.  The study’s authors also stated that increasing ones exercise between the ages of 15 and 18 led to higher scholastic testing and better acedemic prospects because of it.  (PNAS Dec 2009)

Exercise has also been shown in the lab to increase the size and function of the hippocampus which is vital for “long term potentiation”, the establishment of actual memories from inputted information.  (see “studies”)  As mentioned earlier, exercise also has well established cardiovascular benefits, it keeps the brain youthful and healthy just like any other organ.  Clearly you are doing more than just “increasing your muscle tone!”

The conclusion is clear:  Up the weights or the mileage and you will up your IQ in the process!

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About Warren Dostie

Fitness trainer, author and avid anti-aging specialist. Age 55
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