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How Playing Sports Can Make You Smarter

by Kate Ferguson on March 6, 2016
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Just because you’ve reached adulthood doesn’t mean you should give up on learning new sports as you go through life. Some research is leading scientists to believe that learning a new sport can literally make you smarter, so it could benefit the other parts of your life in addition to your physical health.

It’s been known for some time that exercise like running leads the brain to create new brain cells in areas of the brain that are in control of memory and thinking. But now further research is being done on the motor cortex of the brain, which has to do with how we move our bodies.

According to Dr. John Krakauer, who is a professor of neurology and director of the Center for the Study of Motor Learning and Brain Repair at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore:

“We have a tendency to admire motor skills.”

Meaning, we have a tendency to watch people who are specifically good with them as opposed to further developing our own. For example, we watch sports on TV but we might not be playing sports ourselves.

Some neurological studies have found that learning things like juggling can increase the grey matter of the brain even in adulthood. One study that was done on mice found that when the mice were given a complicated running wheel that forced them to run at a different more stuttered pace, when they learned how to do it they also changed their brains.

The researchers found that there was a myelination of neurons in the motor cortexes of the mice, which is a process of insulating brain cells to send messages more quickly in the brain. In comparison that mice who used the normal type of running wheel for the same amount of time did not experience the same dramatic changes to the brain.

Previously scientists thought that myelination stopped developing when we’re babies, so that’s a pretty major finding. They haven’t tested out these exact findings on humans, but as of right now they think it’s pretty likely that it would be the case as well, since it is certainly the case with other activities like doing crossword puzzles to keep the brain sharp.

So if you’ve always wanted to take up a new sport, now is as good of a time as ever. Who knows even switching your workout up on a regular basis and taking part in some group fitness classes might help your brain.

It can certainly help you stay interested in working out and make you less likely to get bored and quit, which is as good a reason as any. We do know that working out of any kind has all kinds of health benefits for the body as well as the mental health, so keep it at for you best self and you might not only be getting more fit, physically healthy, and happier, but you might also be getting smarter in the process.

 

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