May Make You Smarter
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Running may give the brain a workout,
too. A new study finds that individuals consistently scored higher
on intellectual tests after embarking on a running program.
``These improvements, however, went down when the joggers stopped
their training, which suggests that ongoing exercise is required
to maintain the benefit,'' said study lead author Dr. Kisou Kubota
of Nihon Fukushi University in Handa, Japan. The findings were
presented in San Diego at a recent meeting of the Society for
Recent studies have suggested that exercise benefits both brawn
and brain. Researchers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina,
reported earlier this year that seniors who embarked on a 4-month
exercise program showed significant improvement in memory and
other mental skills, also known as cognitive function. Other studies
have shown that regular workouts can help fight depression, as
In their study, Kubota's team had seven healthy young people
initiate a jogging regimen consisting of running for 30 minutes,
two to three times a week for at least 12 weeks. Each of the runners
also took a series of complex computer-based tests, to compare
memory skills before and after the 3-month jogging program.
After 12 weeks of jogging, scores on all of the tests ''significantly
increased'' in the runners, as did their reaction times in completing
the tests. The researchers point out that the study participants
were given no time to practice the various tests between each
``These tests showed that joggers had a clear improvement in
prefrontal function,'' Kubota said, adding that scores began to
fall again if participants stopped their running routine.
Exactly how exercise might strengthen mental sharpness is unclear,
but previous research suggests that maintaining a healthy flow
of blood and oxygen protects the brain. The Japanese researchers
note that oxygen intake rose along with joggers' test scores.
The findings could have implications for the elderly, as well.
In a Society for Neuroscience statement, Kubota said the research
may someday help doctors ``find a way to use exercise and running
to help aged people and those with Alzheimer's disease'' improve
their cognitive function.
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