Thursday, March 29, 2007

If you won't do it for vanity, do it for your mind

OK, the Newsweek website is here. I can’t figure out how to get to that article "Exercise and the Brain" from their website -- it was published last week (March 26), so maybe they don't let you. In case you can’t either, or you don’t have time to read it all, I offer you a few excerpts and paraphrasings.

Keep in mind that these are brand new results they’re talking about, not just the same-old, same-old “exercise makes everything better” stuff that we've known forever. They've figured out (some of) exactly what it makes happen in the brain.

“….vigorous exercise can cause older nerve cells to form dense, interconnected webs that make the brain run faster and more efficiently."

Apparently we need a chemical called “brain-derived neuropathic factor,” sometimes called “Miracle-Gro for the brain."

“With regular exercise, the body builds up its levels of BDNF, and the brain’s nerve cells start to branch out, join together and communicate with each other in new ways. This is the process that underlies learning: every change in the junctions between brain cells signifies a new fact or skill that’s been picked up and stowed away for future use. BDNF makes that process possible. Brains with more of it have a greater capacity for knowledge. On the other hand, [……………..] a brain that’s low on BDNF shuts itself off to new information.

“Most people maintain fairly constant levels of BDNF in adulthood. But as they age, their individual neurons slowly start to die off. Until the mid 90s, scientists thought the loss was permanent – that the brain couldn’t make new nerve cells to replace the dead ones. But animal studies over the last decade have overturned that assumption, showing the “neurogenesis” in some parts of the brain can be induced easily with exercise.

“It’s not just a matter of slowing down the aging process…….It’s a matter of reversing it."

[The article is talking mainly about aerobic exercise. The jury’s still out on whether stretching, toning and weight lifting similarly affect the brain. But if you ask me, it does. How could it not? That’s my scientific opinion, so there. Anyway, all that other stuff makes you do the aerobic exercise better. Read the article. It’ll enhance your commitment to exercise.]



At 5:16 AM, Blogger steve said...

Here you go: There's also a transcript of a Q&A webchat session that's worth reading.


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