As parents and kids get ready for the new school year, there’s one thing that should top everyone’s back-to-school list—exercise.
We all know what exercise can do for your body, but the evidence is mounting that it’s just as important for your brain. And, these brain-boosting benefits extend to people of all ages—adults, seniors, and kids alike.
According to a published review of over 111 prior studies, researchers found that both aerobic and strength training exercise are necessary for optimal brain health and function.
In young children, aerobic exercise is especially important in developing cognitive abilities. Sedentary children have poorer academic performance while regular exercise is associated with better memory, attention and decision-making skills.
Similar findings were documented among young and older adults engaged in aerobic activities: improved cognitive function, multi-tasking, and planning. Researchers also found physiological changes in the volume of brain structures important for memory.
Although few studies have evaluated the effects of strength training on brain health in children, studies in older adults suggest that high-intensity and high-load training can improve memory.
More investigation is needed to determine exactly how exercise affects brain structure and function, but animal studies suggest that exercise might alter people's brain structure, triggering the growth of new nerve cells and blood vessels. Physical activity also increases the production of brain chemicals that promote the growth and repair of brain cells.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services