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UBC study shows cognitive performance and brain activity an important factor in exercise

People often intend to start exercising, but don’t

By Alison Knill , in City , on February 23, 2019

People often intend to start exercising, but don’t. Matthieu Boisgontier, a postdoctoral student at UBC, wanted to find out why people couldn’t implement their intention in a recent study. The researchers had participants view images that depicted sedentary or physical activities and instructed them to approach or avoid the image using the computer arrow keys.

The study found that people who had an established exercise routine were faster to move towards physical activity images than sedentary images. Measurements of the brain’s electrical activity showed that the participants had to use more brain activity to avoid sedentary activities. The researchers suggest is because of an unconscious attraction to saving energy.

Boisgontier also looked at how cognition acts as a factor for engaging in physical activity in low-income neighbourhoods. Members of low-income communities often face barriers when they’re trying to access physical activity, including a lack of access to exercise facilities. He found that cognitive performance can help reduce the impact the community barriers can have on engaging in physical activity. Cognitive performance is the ability to perform tasks that require thinking and can be improved with brain training.

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