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.
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.
- Brain Rules Exercise Reference pages, (7 1/2 pages!)
- Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey (which is now sitting on my shelf awaiting reading – I bought this book after attending a presentation by Ratey at November’s Learning & the Brain conference)
- Mayo Clinic – Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity
- The Exercise and Physical Fitness Pages by Georgia State University, Department of Kinesiology and Health
- The Franklin Institute: The Human Brain: Renew – Exercise
- SharpBrains: Physical Exercise and Brain Health
- SharpBrains: The brain virtues of physical exercise