Better Brain Function Comes With Short Sessions Of Exercise
March 7, 2013

Better Brain Function Comes With Short Sessions Of Exercise

Alan McStravick for - Your Universe Online

The fact exercise is instrumental in lowered obesity rates and in promoting a general sense of health and well-being is very well established. The benefits from a quality exercise regimen range from improved cardiovascular activity and healthy weight regulation to an improved sense of self-worth.

A new report, compiled from several studies, and published in the British Medical Journal, has determined another excellent benefit of exercise. What is most revealing about the report and its claimed benefit is the amount of exercise required to achieve it.

Last year, a University of Georgia (UGA) study focused on the state of physical education in our nation. Their findings showed that, for too many states, PE initiatives were woefully lacking.

UGA kinesiology professor Bryan McCullick conducted his study by examining the mandates for school-based physical education in each of the 50 US states. Surprisingly, his study showed only 6 states adhered to guidelines for elementary age physical education established by the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE). Even more shocking was that only two states established mandates that followed the guidelines recommended for middle-school-age children. And not one state in 50 met the guidelines established for our high schools.

Researchers for the latest study compiled data culled from medical research databases with the intent of noting the impact of physical exercise on higher brain functions. These functions include memory, concentration, planning and decision making.

They separated their data into three sub-sets, based on age. The first group was comprised of 6-12 year olds. The second group focused on subjects between the ages of 13 and 17. The third sub-set consisted of individuals between the ages of 18 and 35.

The team was able to identify 24 relevant studies published through April of last year. Of the 24 studies, 19 addressed the impact of short bouts of exercise. These 19 studies involved 586 participants. The remaining five studies addressed the impact of regular exercise. In all, these five studies included 358 participants.

The team was able to determine that regular exercise didn´t present much of an impact on higher brain functions. Unfortunately, the researchers point out those studies detailing regular exercise and its impact on higher brain function were too few in number and their results too inconsistent to enable firm conclusions to be drawn.

However, higher brain function was markedly increased after a short bout of exercise in each of the three age sub-sets. The team notes only four studies looked at the impact of this type of exercise on working memory, and then only in young adults. The limited data meant the findings, as they relate to working memory, are also inconclusive.

A majority of the studies did look at short bouts of exercise and their effects on self-control. The researchers contend their analysis indicates short bouts of exercise were instrumental in improving this higher brain function across each age group. The impact was classified as small to moderate.

And this brings us back to where we began this article. The researchers report their findings are particularly important for school aged children and teens. This is because a well-developed higher brain function is important; not only for their academic achievement, but also for other aspects of their daily lives, say the authors.

"These positive effects of physical exercise on inhibition/interference control are encouraging and highly relevant, given the importance of inhibitory control and interference control in daily life. Inhibition is essential for regulation of behavior and emotions in social, academic, and sport settings," they add.

The team theorizes this self-control may be a direct result of cerebral blood flow to the pre-frontal areas of the brain after a short bout of exercise. The pre-frontal areas of the brain are responsible for higher executive brain functions.

The authors also contend the implementation of short bouts of exercise may be useful in helping to treat conditions that are characterized by impaired higher brain function. Conditions like attention hyperactivity deficit disorder (ADHD) and autism could benefit greatly from these types of exercise. Additionally, the researchers claim short bouts of exercise might also delay the ravaging effects of dementia.

"Given the trend for a more sedentary lifestyle, worldwide ageing and the increasing prevalence of dementia, the results highlight the importance of engaging in physical exercise in the general population," the researchers conclude.