Given that September is brain health awareness month at Naturmend it is a perfect time to discuss the effect of exercise on our brains. We all know that exercise is good for the body- it helps us to stay in shape and keeps our heart, lungs and muscles in optimal condition. But did you ever stop to think of how it could be improving your brain health? Well, good news, there are BIG positive effects for the brain. So if you weren’t motivated enough, read on to see how you could improve your brain power through exercise!
Exercise improves learning and plasticity
Research shows that when we exercise, new activity takes place in the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain responsible for memory, learning and emotions. Specifically the structure of where short and long term memories are created shows greater development. There is an increase in levels of proteins and growth-factors such as Brain-Derived Neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF). BDNF is needed to help with the survival of current neurons in your nervous system, and additionally helps growth of NEW neurons. Essentially movement for the body produces fuel for your nervous system to become stronger and healthier!
Exercise is protective for your brain
There are numerous studies that show exercise can help delay the onset and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer disease, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Populations suffering from neurodegenerative decline that participate in physical activity report a decrease in depressive symptoms and improvement in cognitive and physical tests.
Additionally, those with the genotype that is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s also showed improvements on cognitive testing, thus showing exercise can help to reduce/delay the occurrence of neurodegenerative processes.
Exercise is therapeutic for depression
Getting your sweat on has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression, demonstrated in both young and older individuals. There seems to be a dose-related effect, so the more you exercise, the greater the improvements. Studies suggest in some cases just 2-4 months of cardio and weight-training can achieve similar benefits to that of anti-depressants.
As mentioned previously, during exercise, the hippocampus goes through new changes that are associated with learning, memories and emotion. This process is why researchers believe it to have beneficial effects on depression.
- increases your ability to learn new tasks
- protects your brain from neurodegenerative diseases, slows the effects of these diseases
- helps to combat symptoms of depression
To help you get moving there is a great little app you can download to your phone called the Nike + Training App. Check it out here: http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/nike-plus/training-app
Dr. Nicole Barry completed her Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology with Honours at Western University in London, Ontario. She then continued on to Toronto to successfully obtain her Doctor of Chiropractic at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College.
Exercise builds brain health: key roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation Carl W. Cotman, Nicole C. Berchtold and Lori-Ann Christie University of California, Irvine Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia, 1113 Gillespie Building, Irvine, CA 92617-4540, USA