Move It!

Holy BDNF Batperson! BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) is a protein in the brain that John Medina, author of Brain Rules, likens to “miracle-gro for the brain”. It turns out that EXERCISE boosts not only BDNF, but also the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, all known for helping the brain to feel good and be alert, as well as assisting with neuron communication.

This probably does not come as a surprise to many, because the benefits of exercise have been espoused in the news on and off for many years. Exercise helps alleviate stress, can be a preventative for many diseases, and can assist with weight control and body image. The surprising aspect, really, is why you can still visit schools where phys ed has been curtailed (budget issues) and businesses where office workers still spend the overwhelming portion of their day in sedentary conditions.

Rule #1 in John Medina’s Brain Rules states:

Exercise boosts brain power.

And he goes on to explain what happens inside your brain when you exercise your body.

• Your brain needs oxygen and food. While your brain may only represent about 2 percent of your body weight, it accounts for about 20 percent of your total energy usage.

• What exercise does is provide your body greater access to the oxygen and the food.

• The more you exercise, the more tissues you can feed and the more toxic waste you can remove.

• …exercise literally increases blood volume in a region of the brain called the dentate gyrus. … The dentate gyrus is a vital constituent of the hippocampus, a region deeply involved in memory formation.

• BDNF…keeps existing neurons young and healthy, rendering them much more willing to connect with one another. It also encourages neurogenesis, the formation of new cells in the brain.

I’m a swimmer and a walker and a kayaker. On average, during the school year, we walk about 15 miles a week. And during the summer I swim several miles a week. Take away my exercise and I get grumpy. With my exercise, I have more energy and think more clearly.

You don’t have to take my experiences and writing, or John Medina’s word for it. There is a wealth of information regarding the physical and cognitive benefits of exercise. Aaron Nelson, in stating his pointers for improving memory, listed regular exercise as his first nugget of advice, followed by getting a good night’s sleep and alleviating stress, both which can be positively impacted by exercise.

5 thoughts on “Move It!

  1. Pingback: Sit? Stand? Move! | Neurons Firing

  2. Pingback: Successful Aging « Neurons Firing

  3. Ken Allan

    Kia ora Laurie

    I came across this Live Science post today, and I thought I’d pass on to you. It links into what you were saying about exercise and how it improves the blood supply to the regions of the brain assiting the prevention of the onset of alzheimers.

    This is a very low key site, but it frequently features posts on the brain.

    Best wishes
    from Middle-earth

  4. Ken Allan

    Kia ora Laurie

    I guess you could also say “Or Lose It!“. I like walking and used to enjoy running before I got a bit of arthritis.

    Of the many observations I made when training and running marathons (over 25 years ago) was that I never could remember shutting my eyes when I went to bed at night. But conversely I could go to late-night parties, and at about midnight, when everyone was nodding off and getting dopey, I’d be wide awake.

    Another is that I had no real taste for alcohol as such – oh, I enjoyed a beer or glass of wine, but the tendency to have another just wasn’t there.

    Good tips and advice in this post.

    ‘Dopamine’ – I used to think this was a funny name for a substance, amine or not. And especially a neurotransmitter!

    Catchya later

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