23 Apr

Exercise Helps to Grow New Brain Cells

Aerobic exercise helps to grow new brain cells

Aerobic Exercise is essential for a healthy brain and helps to grow new brain cells.

‘How can I grow new brain cells?’ is an important question for grown ups. The answer is through regular aerobic exercise. Exercise is like a magic wand for the brain because it helps the birth of baby neurons faster than any other method.

TEDxOrlando – Wendy Suzuki – Exercise and the Brain (14:03 mts)

Scientists until recently believed that after childhood the brain changed only when it began the long process of decline. Those who wondered if the healthy brain might be improved or preserved through activity or mental exercise were told not to waste their time. Things changed during the late 1960s and 1970s when scientists made a series of unexpected discoveries. They showed that the brain changed its very structure with each different activity performed, perfecting its circuits so it was better suited to the task at hand.

The idea that the brain can change (neuroplasticity) its own structure and function through thought and activity is the most important alteration in our view about what the brain can do. Neurogenesis on the other hand is the growth of new brain cells. It was found that those who exercised the most had twice the blood flow as the non-exercisers, and the increase occurred in the crucial memory area of the brain.

Exercise and the Brain (Drs Art Kramer and Edward McAuley) (8:59mts)

One of the latest studies, published in 2006, by Dr Art Kramer and his colleagues found that those over age 60 who did regular stints of aerobic exercise for six months had increased brain volumes in their frontal lobes’ gray matter indicating an increase in neurons. This did not happen for the older adults who participated in the stretching and toning non-aerobic control group. (see video)

Benefits of Exercise for Brain Health:
The most important step you can take (at any age) for keeping your brain healthy is to structure exercise into your daily routine. There are many benefits of aerobic exercise to improve brain health and keep you smart till a ripe old age:

  • Exercise provides an immediate treatment for the physical and emotional symptoms, because with chronic stress, new neuron production is slowed or grinds to a halt.
  • Exercise increases the levels of the specific neurotransmitters that promote anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects.
  • Increases Serotonin levels reducing depression and anxiety
  • Exercise also raises the stress threshold of neurons.
  • Exercise can lower inflammatory chemicals. This can occur at all ages. Even just thinking about exercise activates the same neuronal systems in your brain.
  • Physical exercise, especially if it takes place in a new and stimulating environment where learning occurs, is an effective way to promote neurogenesis.
  • Exercise makes new stem cells and learning prolongs their survival.
  • Stem cells can divide into neurons or glial cells through a process enhanced by exercise.
  • The best exercise therefore combines a cardiovascular boost and learning a new skill.

Are you interested in rewiring your brain to make your brain smarter as you age? Then take the first step towards making aerobic exercise like, brisk walking, running, jogging or swimming a part of your life.

Glossary:
A Neuron is a nerve cell, a specialized cell that transmits nerve impulses in the brain. They are highly social; if they weren’t used to working with neighbouring neurons, they would die. Each neuron is capable of maintaining connections with about ten thousand other neurons. These connections change as you learn new things.

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