While we’ve already provided you with 19 reasons to exercise and many ways to keep your brain in shape, Brainscape has recently found more amazing evidence proving that even moderate exercise has a dramatic effect on the functioning, and especially the aging, of your brain! Research is showing that exercise may do more than just make your muscles stronger, but it actually makes your brain stronger too.
As written in an article by Chris Jozefowicz for phychologytoday.com, more and more studies are showing a distinct connection between exercise and the ability for older adults to combat the effects of aging. The results present that participating in a regular program of activities as simple as 15 minutes of mild aerobic exercise induces brain cells to reinforce old connections between neurons and create new connections, essentially forming a denser brain that is better capable of processing and storing information. The preservation of brain tissue, the avoidance of brain disease, and the improvement of cognitive ability have also been linked to moderate exercise in older adults. Even learning, which depends on neuronal connections to take signals from the senses and embed them into the brain, is vastly improved in people maintaining active lifestyles.
But how does exercise actually strengthen the brain? All of these benefits come down to a single protein called BDNF, or “brain-derived neurotrophic factor”. This protein, essential for fetal development, assists in the growth of nerve cell connections. Although tests have only been done on animals, results show an important link between moderate exercise and an increase in levels of BDNF. In other words, the more active you are, the more BDNF you have, which leads to better resistance from brain aging. Additionally, tests prove that rats with higher levels of BNDF are able to complete mazes faster, heal faster, and avoid the rat’s equivalent of depression.
Although no direct link between exercise and BDNF has yet to be studied in humans, studies have shown that older adults that participate in regular exercise improved dramatically at cognition tests. Also, MRI images taken of active adults show they have denser brains as compared to their inactive counterparts, highlighting the idea that exercise combats diseases that negatively affect the brain. Now exercise can do more than just give you a great body, but also give you a great mind!