Greater Functional Connectivity Found in the Brains of Endurance Runners
Functional connectivity refers to the different areas of the brain and how these areas connect and interact. This includes the frontal cortex where the decision making process takes place, planning is done, and where the attention to multi-task resides. People can lose connectivity as they age, with some falling prey to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Studies over the last decade have shown that older adults respond well to exercise but older study participants may have other health-related factors that affect brain connectivity. Young adult endurance runners don’t have age-related issues. Researchers at the University of Arizona compared the runners’ brain scans to the MRIs of sedentary young adults for a comparison of the two groups at rest and while awake but inactive.
The findings were favorable for runners, as their brain structures and functions resembled that of musicians and artists- groups that have higher control over fine motor skills and higher hand-eye coordination, two areas that are affected during the aging process.
Although more study is required, it appears that running may provide some form of protection against age-related disease.