Did you know that exercise is the single most powerful tool you have to optimise your brain function?
The last two months we have been studying neuroscience and the correlation between physical movement and its impact on the brain. I am going to present some fascinating information that hopefully will help you better understand the benefits on exercise and optimal brain function.
Did you know that the brain grows new nerve cells throughout life? Yes it is true. Your brain does not stop evolve by the age of 25. The best way to grow new nerve cells is through exercising and staying mentally and socially engaged in activities that challenges you. So what happens when you exercise you might ask yourself? One of the many positive effects of exercising are an increased level of neurotransmitters and neurotrophic factors, new capillaries in the brain and synaptic plasticity. In other words, exercise cause neurons to sprout new branches.
Research show that the better your fitness level, the better your brain works! Researcher Charles Hillman have proved that fit children score better than unfit children on cognitive tests; researcher Arthur Kramer have proved that getting in shape increases brain volume of older adults and thousands of other studies have shown that higher levels of fitness and health directly relate to lower levels of stress and anxiety and elevated positive mood. (Ratey J. MD, Hagerman E. Spark the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain; p. 247)
So how should we train and how much exercise do we need to healthy brain function? If I had the perfect answer to that, I would be a millionaire today. Truth of the matter is that how much exercise you need will vary from person to person. But research show that the more fit you are the more resilient your brain becomes both cognitively, emotionally and psychologically. If you get your body in shape, your brain will follow.
Research also shows that moderate – intensity to high intensity exercise is very good for you. Why?
First, your body shifts from burning fat alone to burning glucose and a s a result the muscle tissue develops microtears due to the stress. The result is that your muscles get stronger.
Secondly, your body will be in higher demand and in need of a better oxygen delivery system when you train at higher intensity. Therefore the muscles release growth factor (VEGF and FGF-2) creating new cells and tissue for more blood vessels – the capillaries that I mentioned above. Researchers have shown that VEGF and FGF-2 will activate cells to produce more blood vessels within a few hours after exposure / exercise. This also happens in your brain.
Third, moderate intensity to high intensity exercise relaxes adrenaline into the bloodstream. This elevates your hormone levels and is necessary for stabilising them. But too much intensity training can on the other hand create a chronic toxic stress on the cellular levels ( by too much cortisol being pumped out into the blood stream), which is not good. Therefore it is important to have a good balance of hard high intensity training and restorative training. Because restorative training (BDNF = brain derived neurotropic factor) will counterbalance the HPA axis.
Fourth, your immune system becomes stronger and better prepared to fight of colds, viruses (like Covid -19) and cancer.
Fifth, if you actually can train yourself and get into the high intensity zone (close to maximum heart rate/anaerobic range) the pituitary glands will release human growth factor (HGH). This my friends is what will keep you and your brain mentally sharp and young! HGH is the boys master craftsman, burning belly fat, increasing strong muscle fiber and pumping up brain volume and your cognitive adaptability. A recent study show that sprinting or interval training generates a sixfold increase in HGH! Which also peaked two hours after the workout session. (Ratey J. MD, Hagerman E. Spark the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain; p. 257).
This is also why we program interval training at the gym, Franklin hill sprints and workouts like Fran. To push you guys into that energy domain. It can be painful, but it is good for you and your brain. And you know it because you feel it. You feel better and happier after doing it. Now you know a little bit more why you feel the way you do and why we program the way we do.
Next week I will write about how training can prevent ageing and Dementia/Alzhemiers that affects so many people in the US.
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