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Brain Boosting Benefits for Running in Young Adults

Benefits for Running

Getting teens and young adults started early in athletics improves brain connections, finds new study.


There are many benefits to being involved in sports at an early age – staying physically fit, building relationships, and learning discipline. Cross country runners may also have another added perk to their sport – better brain connections.

Researchers with the University of Arizona in Tucson compared 11 male cross-country runners with 11 health males who were not physically active. The participants underwent MRI scans of the brain and found that the runners overall had greater functional connectivity within several areas of the brain, particularly the frontal cortex which is important for cognitive functions such as planning and decision-making.

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"One of the key questions that these results raise is whether what we're seeing in young adults - in terms of the connectivity differences - imparts some benefit later in life," said Gene Alexander, a professor of neuroscience and physiological sciences.

"The areas of the brain where we saw more connectivity in runners are also the areas that are impacted as we age, so it really raises the question of whether being active as a young adult could be potentially beneficial and perhaps afford some resilience against the effects of aging and disease."

The study has been published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

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