Here’s one more solid reason to inspire kids to exercise. The secret to maintaining cognitive fitness later in life may lie in getting active while young and staying active throughout teen, young-adult and middle-aged years.

In a longitudinal study involving 3,596 people ages 3–18, with follow-ups at 3- to 9-year intervals over 31 years, Finnish investigators found that cumulative exposure to physical activity from childhood to adulthood was associated with better reaction time during midlife. In addition, for men, cumulative physical activity in young adulthood and adulthood was linked with better visual processing and sustained attention.

Study authors recommend that people adopt a physically active lifestyle in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood and continue it as they age in order to ensure midlife cognitive performance benefits.

See also: Inside the Latest Physical Activity Guidelines

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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