Exercise helps to keep the brain working well, at least in rats. The research conducted at the University of Minnesota involved rats learning a maze. Then half the animals got regular low-fat lab chow, while the other half got the same amount of calories, but with 40% of the calories from fat. Four months later, the rats were retested. Those who had been eating the high-fat fare did not learn anywhere close to as quickly as they had before.
Then the scientists added another wrinkle. The dietary regimen continued as before, but half the animals in each group were given access to an exercise wheel. Another four months elapsed, and the rats were tested once more. The sedentary rats eating a high-fat diet had slipped even further on their cognitive scores. But exercising rats, regardless of their diets, were able to perform just as well as they had at the beginning of the study.
People aren’t rats, and we don’t know if running marathons will protect human brains from the consequences of cheeseburgers and milkshakes. But it would be worth studying.
[Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, Oct, 2012]

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  1. Charlie Hendricks

    A neighbor recently lost 40lbs on a gluten free diet. I was so impressed that I tried it too. Didn’t work. This is an interesting concept.

  2. Fonnie H.

    Hi, that is a very interesting article. I have exercised all my life, and my husband just will not exercise. I always kid him, and tell him that he does exercise, he does one sit up per day when he gets out of bed.
    We eat the same foods, and my cholesterol remains extremely low, and I have a memory that my friends cannot believe for my age. I remember when I was very young having my appendix removed. They brought in a lady that is my age now (70), and she had broken her hip. When they transferred her to the bed, her skin hung and sagged. I vowed at an early age that I never would look that way. I have remained toned, and I do some form of exercise every single day. I have had seventeen back surgeries, and have very little use of my left leg, but I keep up my exercises. No one ever guesses my age. So dear friends keep moving as it really does pay off.
    god bless, Fonnie

  3. PP

    Educational and psychological research in many different arenas has shown incredible benefits from exercise concurrent with learning. Children who exercise during recess are better learners afterwards. In a British study, men trying to learn Mandarin, were found to have significantly better retention after exercise. One way to facilitate memorization and language learning comes from doing it WHILE doing some sort of physical activity, i.e walking, treadmill, bike etc. This is even more true for the 10% of the population who are ‘kinesthetic learners,’ as opposed to visual or auditory learners. Exercise stimulates blood flow to the brain, so can’t help but give us better retention.

  4. Karen

    If a “high fat” diet is 40% fat, both sides are eating a lot of carbs.
    It would be interesting to see what happened to sedentary rats fed a high fat, low carb diet.
    Exercise is acting on blood glucose and insulin >>> fat.
    High carb, low fat = good enough but boring and you’ll be hungry all the time.
    High fat, low carb = you can eat all the steak you want, you’re never hungry, and you simply have to do without most desserts.
    High carb, high fat? Prepare to die young.

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