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When Karin Schon enrolled in a 12-week fitness training program during her doctoral studies in cognitive neuroscience at BU, she expected it to improve her health. But she had no idea that it would also shape her research.

Before she took a single step, her trainers gave her a fitness test that measured body fat, weight, and cardiovascular fitness. That first test provided a baseline; another test three months later would determine if the program had made a difference. “I liked it from a scientific perspective,” says Schon (GRS’05), a School of Medicine assistant professor of anatomy and neurobiology, and a BU Alzheimer’s Disease Center faculty member, who studies the effects of physical activity on the aging brain. “It felt like I was participating in a study.”

The program worked. She lost about 20 pounds, her cardiovascular fitness improved, and she was able to hold plank (the upper position of a push-up and a test of core strength and endurance) for nearly seven minutes. “This program had such an impact on me physically,” says Schon, who later became an accomplished half-marathon runner. “I was also curious. I thought that it must have an effect on the brain if it has an effect on the body.”


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