Physical fitness has been associated with better brain structure and brain functioning in adults.
The findings of a study, led by Dr Jonathan Repple of the University Hospital Muenster in Germany, suggests that increasing fitness levels through exercise could result in improved cognitive ability – such as memory and problem solving – as well as improved structural changes in the brain.
A group of researchers led by Repple used a publicly available database of 1,200 MRI brain scans from the Human Connectome Project and combined it with physical testing to assess the subjects' physical fitness. Each one's cognitive ability was also measured. The researchers excluded subjects with pre-existing conditions, such as neurodevelopmental disorders, diabetes or high blood pressure.
The results of the study showed that physical endurance was positively associated with the global cognition scores of the subjects taking part.
In its conclusion, the group of researchers said the results of the study suggests that physical exercise could be used as a form of preventative healthcare.
"The observed pattern of results appears to support the notion of a beneficial effect of physical fitness on cognitive function," the study reads.
"This notion is supported by the few available experimental studies indicating that physical exercise leads to increases in memory performance and brain structural integrity.
"This concept might be of relevance for a wide range of domains in health and life sciences including prevention, clinical care and neurobiological research.
"Along with previous findings, our findings point to the potential of physical fitness as a modifiable factor that might be applied as an intervention in prevention and clinical care."
The report was simultaneously published in the Scientific Reports
journal and presented at the ECNP Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark.
To read the study in full, click here.