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The most persistent theme in exercise science in 2015 was that to live long, age well and maintain both a nimble mind and shapely brain, we must be physically active, but not for as long as many of us might fear or in the ways that many of us might guess.
Certainly the most encouraging exercise research this year focused on the links between regular exercise and improvements in our thinking and the structure of our brains. I’ve often written in past years about how exercise — usually running, especially in animal studies — increases the number of new neurons in the brain and sharpens thinking skills and mood, especially as we age.
But this year, interest among scientists in exercise and brain health seemed to reach a critical mass. Many of the new studies highlighted previously unexplored ways in which exercise changes our brains and minds. One of my favorites was a brain-scan study in which Japanese scientists found that the brains of fit older men were almost as efficient as the brains of young people.
This finding meant, in practice, that the aerobically fit older men’s brains used fewer resources…