The New York Times Magazine published an article about new scientific findings which show that exercisers are smarter!

Yep.  No more dumb jock jokes I guess.

They say that scientists used some new technology to examine the workings of individual neurons and the makeup of brain matter itself and discovered that exercise appears to build a brain resistant to shrinkage.

Whoa!  Brain shrinkage?!  I knew that after kids and after ooh, a certain age, my boobs might head south…but now this?

I know the point was to show that exercising is good for the whole body-muscles and circulation…and now brain function…but did they need to tell me my brain is shrinking?  (Good news is its only 1%.)   Better news is that I can stop doing those boring crossword puzzles and playing board games designed to build your brain.  According to the NY times, “The latest neuroscience suggests that exercise does more to bolster thinking than thinking does.” Aah. this IS exciting news.

Professor Rhodes, in the Psychology Dept. at the University of Illinois led a team of researchers to observe groups of mice in different living arrangements.  One group had exciting colorful environments and interesting flavorful food and drink.  Another group had access to all this plus small running wheels and a third group had no exciting environment nor extraordinary food, and the fourth group had the running wheel but no other toys or treats.

The scientists gave the mice a series of cognitive tests at the start of the study and a substance was injected so the scientists could examine their brain tissues.  At the end of the study the cognitive tests were run and it turns out that the toys and tastes didn’t appear to improve the animal’s brains.  Only those who used the running wheel performed significantly better on cognitive tests.

This got me thinking…While I was sitting on my butt studying to earn my MA degree, all those girls in spandex at the gym trying to pick up dudes while working out could actually wind up smarter than me?!?  Hmm, does this mean that the undergrads who smoked pot might have actually balanced out all the brain cells they snuffed out with all the time they spent at the gym?  I’m sure the scientists weren’t trying to go there but I had to wonder….it was, after all, an animal study and I did attend the ultimate party school for a time…

The real thrilling part of the study overall is that even though the brain, like all muscles and organs does appear to decline in function with underuse and age, neurogenesis (the creation of new cells) can and does occur.  Exercise appears to slow or reverse the brain’s physical decay—particularly in the hippocampus which is associated with memory and certain types of learning.  The rats who ran for a few weeks, as compared to the sedentary ones, had about 2x as many new neurons in their hipppocampi.

That said …Gotta Run..

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