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Beef Up Your Brain with Exercise

Beef Up Your Brain with Exercise

In the 1988 movie Twins, Julius and Vincent Benedict (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito) are the result of an experiment to produce the perfect child. And you’re supposed to accept that the two are genetically identical, yet, in outward appearances, polar opposites.

While that premise may be hard to believe, finding adult twins who have developed differently is exactly what a team of Finnish researchers set out to do. They eventually located and then studied 10 sets of male identical twins ages 32 to 36 who had divergent lifestyles (one was physically active, the other sedentary), and what they discovered was something you want to be aware of.

As you could have guessed, the inactive twin was fatter, had less endurance and increased insulin resistance, signaling the onset of metabolic problems.  But because the twins’ diets were similar, researchers thought food choices weren’t what caused the health differences. But the real surprise? The active twin’s grey matter was more robust than the slacker twin’s, especially in areas of the brain involved in motor control and coordination.

There are two important take-aways from this:

  1. Genetics isn’t destiny. You can opt to be healthier and regular exercise is an important component of that. We say head for 10,000 steps a day (no excuses) and strength training with hand weights or stretch bands 2 to 3 days a week for 30 minutes.
  2. Exercise protects more than your muscles and heart from disease, it protects your brain. So get smart about physical activity!

Medically reviewed in December 2019.

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