You Smarty(Exerciser)Pants!

April 14th, 2011 by Amy Gonsalves Leave a reply »

We are always trying to separate things out in a somewhat strange way… I mean, do you really ever think you can isolate one muscle group?  Try moving your bicep without recruiting any of your shoulder muscles.  Try doing a pushup or lunge without using your back muscles.

Difficult, isn’t it?  I’d say it is actually impossible.  (A lot like trying to separate emotions from blood glucose swings sometimes… sure, they are different… but they are also inseparable.) 

Those weight machines may not be as useful or functional as you’d like.  Try grabbing a set of dumbbells to enhance your body knowledge and shoot for functional movements instead!

But why should your brain be any different?

Every year more research comes out that supports my long-held belief that exercise supports brain health as well as physical health.  Not only does regular physical exercise support your body, it supports your moods and can help stave off depression. 

More specifically:

One of the more exciting discoveries in neuroscience in the last 20 years has been that the adult brain can continue to make new neurons throughout the lifespan.  It doesn’t happen equally in all brain areas, for reasons that are not totally understood, but it happens readily in one specific area: the hippocampus.  This is an evolutionary older part of the brain that is concerned with forming memories and processing emotion, which may help explain some of the cognitive and emotional benefits of exercise.

Interestingly, aerobic exercise can increase neurogenesis (generation of new neurons) within the hippocampus at many stages of development, including in the neonatal (Kim et al. 2007), juvenile (Lou et al. 2008) and adult brains (van Praag, Kempermann & Gage 1999).  The fact that the hippocampus is a critical brain structure used in memory may explain why aerobic exercise can enhance learning (Vaynman & Gomez-Pinilla 2006).  Furthermore, we know that stress reduces neurogenesis, an effect that may contribute to depression and anxiety (Lucassen et al. 2010).  Therefore, the enhanced neurogenesis brought about by exercise may represent the neurobiological mechanism by which regular exercise reduces depression.

(“Exercise and the Brain” Jeffrey Kleim, PhD March 2011 IDEA Fitness Journal)

Just think of all the benefits regular aerobic exercise can bring not only your body, but your brain as well!! 

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