Can exercise make you smarter?

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Exercise doesn’t just improve your physical health, it may also enhance your cognitive functioning, according to a new study.

Nine women with fibromyalgia participated in a small study of the effects of exercises on working memory. Researchers used a functional MRIs to measure women’s brain activity levels while they took a memory test. After these initial tests, the women stopped taking their medications, and actually performed more poorly on the memory tests. But after six weeks of an aerobic exercise program, their cognitive functioning improved significantly to normal levels. The women also experienced reduced levels of pain.

While more research is needed, this study may be the first to link exercise to improved working memory. Research has demonstrated that exercise and tai chi can significantly reduce pain in fibromyalgia patients. This study confirms these findings while pointing to other potential benefits of exercise.


Khatiwada, M., J Vanmeter, B. Wallit. “Effect of aerobic exercise on working memory in fibromyalgia.” Presentation abstract for Neuroscience 2011. November 13, 2011. Accessed January 9,  2012.{8334BE29-8911-4991-8C31-32B32DD5E6C8}.

Kelly, Janis. “Exercise Relieves Fibromyalgia Pain, Ups Cognitive Function.” Medscape. December 9, 2011. Accessed January 9, 2012.


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