Exercise For A Healthier Brain
“Beginning in our late 20s, most of us will lose about 1 percent annually of the volume of the hippocampus, a key portion of the brain related to memory and certain types of learning.”
Everyone knows that exercising can help your heart, weight, and countless health benefits, but what many don’t know is that exercising can also make you smarter and better at what you do.”Exercise is really for the brain, not the body. It affects mood, vitality, alertness, and feelings of well-being.” says John J. Ratey, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Exercise affects many sites within the nervous system and sets off pleasure chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine that make us feel calm, happy, and euphoric.
“When one exercises,” Anderson says, “you can think more clearly, perform better, and your morale is better. This is pure science — stimulate your nervous system and function at a higher level.” In a recent publication by the New York Times, even more ground breaking evidence and research has been linked to a healthier brain as a result of exercise. Here is a summary of the research and studies.
“For more than a decade, neuroscientists and physiologists have been gathering evidence of the beneficial relationship between exercise and brainpower. But the newest findings make it clear that this isn’t just a relationship; it is THE RELATIONSHIP. The most persuasive evidence comes from several new studies of lab animals living in busy, exciting cages.
Researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, gathered four groups of mice and set them into four distinct living arrangements.
- Group 1-Lived in a world of sensual and gustatory plenty, dining on nuts, fruits and cheeses, their food occasionally dusted with cinnamon, all of it washed down with variously flavored waters. Their “beds” were colorful plastic igloos occupying one corner of the cage. Neon-hued balls, plastic tunnels, nibble-able blocks, mirrors and seesaws filled other parts of the cage.
- Group 2-Had access to all of these pleasures, plus they had small disc-shaped running wheels in their cages.
- Group 3- Had cages held no embellishments, and they received standard, dull kibble.
- Group 4- This group’s homes contained the running wheels but no other toys or treats.
- All the animals completed a series of cognitive tests at the start of the study and were injected with a substance that allows scientists to track changes in their brain structures. Then they ran, played or, if their environment was unenriched, lolled about in their cages for several months.
“Only one thing had mattered,” Rhodes says, “and that’s whether they had a running wheel.” Animals that exercised, whether or not they had any other enrichments in their cages, had healthier brains and performed significantly better on cognitive tests than the other mice. Animals that didn’t run, no matter how enriched their world was otherwise, did not improve their brainpower in the complex, lasting ways that Rhodes’s team was studying. “They loved the toys,” Rhodes says, and the mice rarely ventured into the empty, quieter portions of their cages. But unless they also exercised, they did not become smarter.
The brain, like all muscles and organs, is a tissue, and its function declines with underuse and age. Beginning in our late 20s, most of us will lose about 1 percent annually of the volume of the hippocampus, a key portion of the brain related to memory and certain types of learning.Exercise though seems to slow or reverse the brain’s physical decay, much as it does with muscles. Even more heartening, scientists found that exercise jump-starts neurogenesis. Mice and rats that ran for a few weeks generally had about twice as many new neurons in their hippocampi as sedentary animals. Their brains, like other muscles, were bulking up.
Here is a link to the full article
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