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Can exercise make me smarter?

Students at Naperville High School near Chicago doubled their reading scores and upped their math scores by a factor of 20 simply by exercising before they went to class. Scientists theorize that in addition to increasing blood flow to the brain, physical activity stimulates the release of neurotransmitters that help enhance problem solving. The specific type of exercise may not matter much, as positive effects have been noted from walking, sitting on balance balls, and performing a series of multi-joint movements in rapid succession.
In children, exercise has been shown to improve cognitive function improve motor skill development, and children who are active do better on standardized tests and have better grades. In adults, especially as we age regular physical activity especially form that are challenging physically like golf, bowling, dancing help people retain motor skills, increases memory and slows the aging process of the brain. Studies show that very active people who engage regularly physical activities have much lower rates of memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer’s and do better on cognitive function tests over time. So yes exercise will make you smarter and allow you to remain smart for as long as possible.
In general, yes, and it can certainly help keep you from getting “less smart”, meaning exercise has been shown to be the most powerful anti-aging tool for preserving or improving brain function. Exercise improves brain health much like it does for other parts of the body. It increases the growth of brain cells and blood vessels while reducing damaging inflammation. All these brain exercise induced factors work to improve learning and memory, delay age-related cognitive decline, reduce risk of neurodegeneration (brain cells declining) and plays a role in alleviating or staving off depression.
One of the most famous research projects regarding exercise and intelligence came out of the Naperville Ill. school system where students were put into “Zero Hour” Physical Education (P.E.) to determine whether working out (high intensity fitness workouts, not sports or “standard P.E.”) before school would give kids a boost in learning compared to kids that did standard P.E. later in the day. The answer was yes. The students in Zero Hour scored better in almost all areas of learning and reading. Exercise clearly heightened their senses, focus, improved moods and they were all more motivated and invigorated to participate in class compared to the other group.
So yes, in many ways for the old and young, exercise can make and/or keep you smarter.
 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.