Study: Fitness in Young Adults Improves Memory, Reasoning, and Problem Solving

A new study is exploring physical health and cognitive functioning among young adults.

A new study published in Scientific Reports and presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, has concluded that physical fitness leads to better brain functioning among young adults. A fit body could make for a fitter brain. 

To put things in more scientific terms, the scientists found that physical fitness can lead to improved cognitive abilities such as memory, problem solving. 

The study looked at MRIs of 1,206 young adults, on average 30 years old. Their fitness was measured by a walking test: you walk as fast as possible for two minutes and the distance was measured. Participants would then undertake a series of cognitive tests to measure memory, judgment, reasoning, and other qualities.

Those who walked further were also able to perform better on the cognitive testing. 

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While there’s a good amount of research suggesting that fitness can help to slow cognitive decline in later years, there’s a lot less research showing that fit, young adults also enjoy better functioning brains.

The study’s team leader Dr. Jonathan Repple said:

“It surprised us to see that even in a young population cognitive performance decreases as fitness levels drops. We knew how this might be important in an elderly population which does not necessarily have good health, but to see this happening in 30 year olds is surprising. This leads us to believe that a basic level of fitness seems to be a preventable risk factor for brain health.”

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The study also stands out for its huge sample size and the fact that the authors were able to control for factors that can distort results like body weight, education status, and blood glucose levels.

As for next steps, Repple noted that now that he’s convinced fit people have better brain health, he plans to research whether or not making people fit will improve their brain health. 

“There are some trials which point in that direction, but if we can prove this using such a large database, this would be very significant”.

Featured image via Sorapop Udomsri/Shutterstock