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A growing body of evidence links exercise and mental acuity
I do some of my best writing on the run. I mean literally. When the words won’t come, when the syntax doesn’t feel right, when I just can’t figure out what angle to take on a column, I’ll often go for a good, hard run.
And usually it works. With the sweat pouring and lungs working overtime, the mental fog lifts. I make connections I hadn’t seen earlier. How to be clear becomes, well, a little more clear.
If you work out routinely, I bet you’ve had the same experience. Three researchers I interviewed for this story say they have achieved it regularly, on a treadmill, on outdoor runs and on a bicycle, respectively. A couple of studies seem to confirm it.
The tantalizing question for those of us in middle age and beyond (I am 52) is whether this short-term cognitive benefit can be replicated over the long haul. Can exercise help keep our minds sharp? And if so, can it help delay or prevent the truly terrifying mental deterioration of dementia, most commonly seen as Alzheimer’s disease?
Researchers studying both animals and humans increasingly say the answer is yes.