According to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, children who exercise have more white matter in their brains than those who are not as active. The fitter the kids were, the thicker and denser the white matter fibers were in their brains.
White matter aids in the efficient sending of signals around the brain. Those parts of the brain which were reported to have more white matter were largely involved in functions associated with memory, reasoning and attention.
Medicaldaily.com describes white matter as “like the interstate trucker of the brain, delivering messages across disparate regions – like from the cerebral cortex to the brain stem or from the left hemisphere to the right.”
“Previous studies in our lab have reported a relationship between fitness and white-matter integrity in older adults, notes psychologist Arthur F. Kramer. “Therefore, it appears that fitness may have beneficial effects on white matter throughout the lifespan.”
Whether improved brain activity due to white matter can be translated to better cognitive ability or higher IQ, however, has yet to be studied. Says Laura Chaddock-Heyman, lead researcher and research associate of psychology at the University of Illinois, “Higher-fit children had more fibrous, compact, structurally-strong white matter tracks compared to their lower-fit peers.”
“This study extends our previous work and suggests that white-matter structure may be one additional mechanism by which higher-fit children outperform their lower-fit peers on cognitive tasks inside the classroom,” added Chaddock-Heyman.