Study: Exercise Can Make You Smarter

A new study says exercise improves cognitive ability.

ByABC News via logo
October 15, 2009, 5:52 PM

Oct. 22, 2009— -- Folk wisdom and modern science hold that physical exercise is good for the mind and body.

For the doubters, new studies uphold the long-held conclusion: Exercise does, indeed, increase brainpower.

"Most notably in children, what we see is that they perform better on academic achievement tests following single bouts of exercise," Charles Hillman, a professor at the University of Illinois who has studied the issue for several years, told "Good Morning America."

Hillman's latest study, "Cognition Following Acute Aerobic Exercise," found that moderate exercise -– 30 minutes for adults and 20 minutes for children -– results in a 5 percent to 10 percent improvement in cognition.

The findings don't refer to a person's IQ or learned intelligence but to executive function, the activity that takes place in the brain's frontal lobe.

Using treadmills, brain monitors and other equipment, Hillman measured cognition before and after exercise.

Participants' performance on executive function tests improved after exercise, the study showed.

Claire Shipman, "Good Morning America's" senior national correspondent, put Hillman's findings to the test.

While connected to monitoring equipment, she hit the treadmill. After 20 minutes, her brain's processing speed had increased by about 16 milliseconds.

"It's good for attention, it's good for how fast individuals process information, and how they perform on cognitive tasks," Hillman said of the effects of exercise on the brain.