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Exercise Improves Brain Health in Overweight, Obese Youth


Category: Family Medicine | Neurology | Pediatrics | Psychiatry | Journal


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Last Updated: September 02, 2022.

FRIDAY, Sept. 2, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Exercise positively affects intelligence and cognitive flexibility among school-aged children with overweight or obesity, according to a study published online Aug. 30 in JAMA Network Open.

Francisco B. Ortega, Ph.D., from University of Granada in Spain, and colleagues assessed whether an exercise intervention of aerobic plus resistance training improved cognitive and brain health outcomes for children with overweight or obesity. The analysis included 109 children (aged 8 to 11 years) randomly assigned to a 20-week trial of intervention or usual routines.

The researchers found that the exercise intervention improved crystallized intelligence as well as total intelligence versus the control group. There was also a positive effect observed for exercise on a composite score of cognitive flexibility. Exercise had a positive, smaller effect on total academic performance, which was partially mediated by cognitive flexibility. Larger improvements in intelligence were seen among boys versus girls. Brain magnetic resonance imaging outcomes (e.g., inhibition, working memory, and hippocampal volume) were not affected by the exercise program.

“This study suggests that exercise can positively affect intelligence and cognitive flexibility during a sensitive period of brain development in childhood and, to a smaller extent, academic performance, indicating that an active lifestyle before puberty may lead to more successful life trajectories,” the authors write.

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