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McLean Research Shows Exercise Tied to Higher IQ in Women

October 26, 2012 Print

Adriana Bobinchock

Belmont, MA - Previous research has shown that cognitive performance is associated with regular exercise among children and elderly, and now researchers at Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital have shown a similar correlation for non-geriatric adult women.

As reported in the current issue of the journal Perceptual & Motor Skills, William D. S. Killgore, PhD, and Zachary J. Schwab, BS, asked healthy adult men and women from the Boston area to gauge their weekly exercise habits and then take an intelligence test. Higher intelligence matched with exercise frequency and duration for women—but not for men.

Intelligence, the authors said, was linked to workout frequency and the total minutes of exercise per week, and the findings remained even when considering demographic variables that normally affect physical activity and intelligence. What is not known, however, is whether more exercise actually causes higher IQ or whether higher IQ leads women to exercise more.

“Overall, these findings suggest that physical exercise is significantly related to relatively stable intellectual capacities among healthy adults,” the authors wrote. “The relationship between physical exercise and measured intelligence was most evident for women.”

Perceptual & Motor Skills, established in 1949, is an independent, peer-reviewed, bimonthly journal which specializes in empirical, theoretical, mainstream, and alternative views on issues in perception and motor skills.

Read a summary of the study here.

McLean Hospital is the largest psychiatric affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a member of Partners HealthCare. For more information about McLean, visit or follow the hospital on Twitter @McLeanHospital.