Anyone who trains for a marathon knows that individual running workouts add up over time to yield a big improvement in physical fitness. So, it should not be surprising that the cognitive benefits from workouts also accumulate to yield long-term cognitive gains. Yet, until now, there was has been little research to describe and support the underlying neurobiology. In new work being presented this week about the effects of exercise on the brain at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) in San Francisco, researchers are finding that brain changes that occur after a single workout are predictive of what happens with sustained physical training over time.
“There is a strong and direct link between physical activity and how your brain works,” says Wendy Suzuki of New York University (NYU), who is chairing a symposium on the topic at CNS. “People still do not link physical health to brain and cognitive health; they think about fitting into a bikini or losing that last pound, not about all the brain systems they are improving and enhancing every time they work out.”