Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Running for your Life

McIninch/iStock

McIninch/iStock

By Aaron Kandola

Exercise can improve the way the brain functions, even in cases of brain trauma. Here’s why.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Improving the way in which our brain functions is not only important to healthy individuals but also to those with a brain injury or a neurological disorder that impairs their capacity to function as they hope. For this reason, neuroscientists are constantly looking for novel techniques to improve the way our brains works.

One of the most exciting new ideas within the field of neuroscience may raise a few eyebrows, not because it’s particularly novel or obscure but because it almost seems too obvious.

Leading a physically active lifestyle has always been recognised as vital to good physical health. While the benefits of exercise in preventing illnesses like cardiovascular or metabolic diseases are well-established, it appears to be just as important for maintaining brain health.

What’s the Deal with Exercise?

The idea that physical exercise has mental benefits is not new. Almost 100 years ago, professional athletes were observed to have a quicker reaction time on cognitive tasks compared with individuals who were less physically active.

However, it was not until the 1970s that the relationship between regular exercise and faster reaction times on cognitive tasks were confirmed using rigorous, systematic experiments. Subsequent research in the 1990s found that exercise was associated with all sorts of cognitive enhancements, such as...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.