Exercise increases key chemicals in the brain that promote neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells. It has been said that one of the key ways to protect an aging mind from wear and tear is to EXERCISE. Exercising isn’t just good for the body, it’s good for the brain, which is part of the body, and thus the mind itself.
A New York Times article entitled “Lobes of Steel” recently came out and while it didn’t give me any direct numbers, it did give me something to compare to… an idea of just how *much* of a difference exercise makes, at least in mice:
All of the mice showed this vivid proof of whatâ€™s known as â€œneurogenesis,â€ or the creation of new neurons. But the brains of the athletic mice in particular showed many more. These mice, the ones that scampered on running wheels, were producing two to three times as many new neurons as the mice that didnâ€™t exercise.
Clearly the tremendous benefits of exercise on neurogenesis weren’t limited to only mice, either:
At the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, a group of elderly sedentary people were assigned to either an aerobic exercise program or a regimen of stretching. (The aerobic group walked for at least one hour three times a week.) After six months, their brains were scanned using an M.R.I. Those who had been doing aerobic exercise showed significant growth in several areas of the brain. These results raise the hope that the human brain has the capacity not only to produce new cells but also to add new blood vessels and strengthen neural connections, allowing young neurons to integrate themselves into the wider neural network. â€œThe current findings are the first, to our knowledge, to confirm the benefits of exercise training on brain volume in aging humans,â€ the authors concluded.
Oh, and I was aware that exercise helped depression, but this one was new to me!:
Exercise speeds the brainâ€™s production of serotonin, which could, in turn, prompt new neurons to grow.
NYTimes articles really are comprehensive, and anytime they release something on neuroscience I enjoy prowling it. I’m sure to learn something new.