Thursday, September 13, 2012

Exercise: For Your Brain

Upending the cliché of muscleheads, scientists at the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging recently set out to examine whether changes in muscles prompted by exercise might subsequently affect and improve the brain’s ability to think.
Lab animals and people generally perform better on tests of cognition after several weeks of exercise training, and studies have shown that over time, running and other types of endurance exercise increase the number of neurons in portions of the brain devoted to memory and learning. But the mechanisms that underlie this process remain fairly mysterious. Do they start within the brain itself? Or do messages arrive from elsewhere in the body to jump-start the process?

What was the gist of the results?

And as it turned out, muscles did affect the mind. After a week of receiving either of the two drugs (and not exercising), the mice performed significantly better on tests of memory and learning than control animals that had simply remained quiet in their cages. The effects were especially pronounced for the animals taking Aicar.
The results, published in the journal Learning and Memory, showed that the drugged animals’ brains also contained far more new neurons in brain areas central to learning and memory than the brains of the control mice, an effect found by microscopic examination.

There are interesting take aways in the linked summary of this study, but the big one for me is - "it's about 50% half mental", as an ex-athlete was reported to have said.  If you want to be your smartest, feel your best, and be at your best health, exercise is essential.  

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