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ImageThe positive effects of exercise also extend to the brain, influencing cognition, according to a new research.

Based on findings from 111 recent studies, Michelle W. Voss, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her colleagues came to the conclusion that both aerobic exercise and strength training play a vital role in maintaining brain and cognitive health throughout life.

Aerobic exercise is important for getting a head start during childhood on cognitive abilities that are important throughout life, researchers say.

Just like physical inactivity is associated with poorer academic performance and results on standard neuropsychological tests, exercise programs appear to improve memory, attention, and decision-making.

These effects also extend to young and elderly adults, with solid evidence for aerobic training benefiting executive functions, including multi-tasking, planning, and inhibition, and increasing the volume of brain structures important for memory.

Animal studies, primarily models that test the influence of aerobic exercise, suggest a variety of mechanisms responsible for these effects. For example, exercise appears to change brain structure, prompting the growth of new nerve cells and blood vessels.

It also increases the production of neurochemicals, such as BDNF and IGF-1, which promote growth, differentiation, survival, and repair of brain cells.

The study has been published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

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