Your Brain and Exercise
By Tony Horton
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If you're looking for the fountain of youth,
you can find it inside your head every time you exercise for more than 20
There was an astonishing article in
Newsweek a while back about the benefits of exercise on the brain that
just blew my mind/brain/cranium/noggin. Here's what I've learned from
this article and further research.
Just 20 minutes of exercise
know that working out and exercising do amazing things for our bodies, and the
benefits, other than weight loss and getting fit, are endless. Most of us also
know that when our hearts, legs, and lungs get pumping, we feel much better
than if we did nothing. Turns out that doing 20 minutes or more of
cardiovascular and/or high-paced resistance workouts affects every aspect of
The science behind the brain magic
The great thing about the Newsweek article is that it
really laid out the scientific findings over the last few years. Here's the
scoop. When you're forced to pull more oxygen into the body through exercise,
you break what's called "the blood-brain barrier." It happens when you climb a
long flight of stairs and when you're busting through any kind of workout that
gets your heart rate pumping. This oxygen-filled blood makes its way into the
temporal lobe of the brain. Inside that temporal lobe is an area called the
hippocampus. Inside the hippocampus lies the seahorse-shaped
area known as the dentate gyrus. As you exercise, these oxygen-filled
blood cells rush into this area of the brain. A chemical/protein called IGF-1
is formed and released inside the dentate gyrus, which ramps up
another chemical/molecule called BDNF; both IGF-1 and BDNF are like
"Miracle-Gro" for the brain.
Benefits for all, from kids to adults
Studies with kids right up to seniors have proven that
high-paced workouts (like
cause the release of the chemicals mentioned above into the brain. Combine this
with even more "brain drugs" like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine and
you've got yourself a feel-good party in your head. Aerobic physical movement
causes the release of these chemicals, and they all help you focus and give you
energy when you need it. They also help you relax and rest properly. It's like
a homemade chemistry set inside your skull that produces a cocktail that
simulates the effects of Prozac and Ritalin.
Children who play outdoors more often score better on tests than
kids who don't. Regular physical activity improves memory, mood, and
problem-solving abilities. Consistent exercise raises self-esteem and decreases
anxiety. Study after study has proven that people who exercise 5 to 6 days a
week greatly decrease their need for psychotherapeutic drugs. If your brain
goes without regular bouts of exercise, the hippocampus will shrink
and erode, which can lead to neurological illnesses such as Alzheimer's
disease. When the dentate gyrus is stimulated, neuro-genesis or
neuro-plasticity occurs. I'm not talking about just slowing the aging process;
I'm telling you that the brain creates new cells through
exercisebrand-new cells that assist in the reversal of aging.
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