Andy’s Quick Hits (45): Exercise in Childhood Predicts Healthy Brains (into Adulthood)

Andy Hab
3 min readJul 16, 2021

Ok, we all know by now that exercise is good for you. Many of you may also be more than aware that exercise is a potent stimulator for the brain encouraging brain growth and effective functioning. Read my article on brain health here:

Two pieces of research have recently been published which show, however, that not just exercise is good for you, but the timing is essential. Specifically, that exercise in pre-teens predicted the fitness of their brains later and also, by another piece of research, that exercise in childhood predicted healthy adult brains!

So, first off, the study from Boston Children’s Hospital shows that physical activity helps to organise developing brains. This study analysed brain imaging data from almost 6'000 9- to 10-year-olds and found that physical activity was associated with brains that were:

  • More efficiently organised
  • More robust
  • Had more flexible networks

Basically giving kids fitter brains all round and better able to adapt to whatever challenges and cognitive functions come at them. Of note is that it didn’t matter what kind of activity — any physical activity is good.

Skylar Brooks, Boston Children’s Hospital)

This then leads us to separate recent study, nicely linking to the above, which looked at childhood pre-teen exercise and cognitive function in later life mapped to MRI data (214 participants aged between 26 and 69). This was conducted by a research group with Professor MATSUDA Tetsuya of Tamagawa University’s Brain Science Institute and Assistant Professor ISHIHARA Toru from Kobe University’s Graduate School of Human Development and Environment.

The results showed that

  • People who are physically active during childhood (up to 12 years of age) have higher
Andy Hab

Sharing fascinating, fun, and important knowledge on the brain and human behaviour - most days. And masters track athlete - still going strong!