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Originally published April 17 2010

Physical health leads to good mental health, too

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Young men who have better cardiovascular fitness also have higher cognitive function and perform better in educational settings, according to a study conducted by researchers from Gothenburg University in Sweden.

"Our data demonstrate that cardiovascular fitness and cognitive performance at age 18 are positively associated," researcher Maria Aberg said. "Change in physical achievement between ages 15 and 18 predicted cognitive performance at age 18."

Researchers collected data on all 1,221,727 male Swedes who had been born between 1950 and 1976 and joined the military at age 18. Heart rate had been measured on a stationary bicycle. While the researchers found no correlation between muscular strength and mental fitness, they found that men with the healthiest heart rate also performed best on tests of intelligence and cognition.

"Moreover, cardiovascular fitness during early adulthood predicted socioeconomic status and educational attainment later in life," Aberg said. "To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate a clear positive association between cardiovascular fitness and cognitive performance in a large population of young adults."

Prior research has shown that both children and older adults who are more physically fit perform better on cognitive tests. Yet findings on young adults have been inconclusive.

Researchers believe that physical exercise improves the health of a young adult's developing brain, particularly improving its ability to adapt to new situations or recover from injury -- a characteristic known as "plasticity."

"These results have implications for the influence of exercise on plasticity. In animal studies, a number of mechanisms have been shown to play a role in exercise-induced cognition and memory improvements," Aberg said.

"These results support the notion promoting physical exercise could serve as a public health strategy to optimize educational achievement."

Another recent study, conducted by researchers from Germany's Saarland University and published in the journal Circulation, found that the exercise led to less chromosome damage and longer cell life.

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