Why Being Fit Means Being Smart—Plus More Cool Fitness News

In this roundup of the latest health and fitness research: the link between being young, fit and smart, new facts about fruit juice, the truth about standing desks, and exploring the transfer of fitness via blood.

Much of the evidence showing a link between physical fitness and brain power is based on how older age groups can use exercise to help slow cognitive decline. But a new study of people in their twenties shows that if you’re young and fit you’re also likely to have superior memory and thinking skills. Using special MRI brain scans, German scientists assessed the white matter—basically, the communication system consisting of the connections between neurons and the brain regions – inside 1200 young people’s brains. The researchers also carried out cognitive tests, medical check-ups, walking tests to assess aerobic fitness and health and lifestyle questionnaires. They found those who were relatively out-of-shape had poorer memory and thinking skills, and their white matter was slightly weaker and more frayed than those who had better fitness levels. Learn more about how being young and fit can keep your brain in good shape.

Stand up to overcome “active couch potato syndrome”

Working out regularly and meeting the recommended guideline of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week is one thing, but if you spend the rest of your day doing sedentary activities it can potentially negate the benefits of your exercise. Experts say it’s something called “active couch potato syndrome,” and now a new study suggests that standing desks can help mitigate the effects. The ACE sponsored study of American college students showed how the use of a standing desk in the classroom was found to significantly improve cardiometabolic health. The students replaced five hours of sitting per week with five hours of standing, and they saw positive results in just three weeks! Researcher Dr Lance C. Dalleck says that while the positive changes were elicited fairly quickly, it’s important to acknowledge that these effects are short-lasting, which means consistency is key. Learn more about how standing desks can help improve cardiometabolic health.

Why you should slow up on sipping fruit juice

It’s a well-known fact that cutting out sugary drinks is one of the simplest and most effective ways to improve your health. And now, having considered 26 years of data from 195,000 people, scientists have spelt out just how much of an impact it can make. They found that replacing one soda or juice each day with water, coffee or tea can cut the risk of type 2 diabetes by 10 percent. While consuming sugary drinks can also drive weight gain, the experts believe one of the most significant issues is that sugary drinks can lead to fat accumulation on the liver which may disrupt insulin activity. The researchers note that when it comes increasing diabetes even 100 percent, fruit juice is a culprit. They advise fruit juice be treated more like soda than whole fruit, which is more nutritious than juice since it contains fiber. Learn more about ditching sugary drinks to drop diabetes risk.

Too lazy to exercise? Mice might have the answer

A new study of mice suggests that transferring “fitness” via blood could be on the horizon. Researchers compared two groups of mice; some were able to exercise with a running wheel and some weren’t able to exercise. After 28 days, the mice that were free to exercise had more new brain cells than the sedentary mice. The researchers then took the blood plasma from the ‘fit’ mice and injected it into the mice who hadn’t exercised—and these sedentary mice soon also had significant increases in new brain cells and improved learning and memory skills. On closer investigation, scientists found a protein called clusterin is key to driving the benefit. While this suggests that clusterin could be used to develop an “exercise-in-a-pill” treatment, it’s not really the answer. At this stage all we know is that clusterin can benefit your brain cells; it doesn’t drive the myriad of other health benefits that exercise provides! Learn more about how the benefits of exercise can be shared by blood transfer.