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Our brains may have evolved to need exercise

Created date

August 24th, 2017
Famous prehistoric rock paintings of men and animals from Tassili N’Ajjer, Algeria.

Famous prehistoric rock paintings of Tassili N’Ajjer, Algeria.

 

We all know that exercise benefits the body in numerous ways. In addition, increasing scientific evidence shows that it may help the brain too. But scientists do not understand exactly why. Some experts say exercise gets your circulation going and may help carry more oxygen to brain tissue. 

University of Arizona researchers may have a better answer. They think clues can be found in our past as hunter-gatherers, specifically, in foraging behaviors. 

Foraging ancestors

The scientists say, as we evolved, foraging became an increasingly complex task—both physically and mentally challenging. Foraging required not only physical movement but cognition—using memory and observation to make decisions. It all added up to multitasking, the researchers say. 

This theory is supported by findings about brain physiology. Research shows that parts of the brain most used for foraging are the same regions that appear to benefit the most from physical activity. These areas of the brain control memory, planning, and problem solving. 

The researchers hope that more studies in this area could help develop ways to help the brain age well and provide some answers about brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. 

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