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Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - ART & MUSIC -

We know that phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is cru­cial to age-proof­ing your brain be­cause it low­ers your BMI and weight — two risk fac­tors for cog­ni­tive de­cline. But the lat­est sci­ence shows that ex­er­cise ac­tu­ally boosts brain power di­rectly. Dr Briffa ex­plains: “It stim­u­lates blood sup­ply to the brain and stim­u­lates some­thing called BDNF (BrainDerived Neu­rotrophic Fac­tor), which is good for the brain, pro­tects it from dam­age and even stim­u­lates the pro­duc­tion of brand new brain cells.”

BDNF is manna for the brain. Higher lev­els in­crease the vol­ume of the hip­pocam­pus, the part of the brain in­volved in mak­ing and stor­ing mem­o­ries. One study showed that women with higher lev­els of BDNF not only scored bet­ter on their BMI, but had higher scores on mem­ory tests. Low lev­els are linked to ac­cel­er­ated age­ing, de­pres­sion, even schizophre­nia.

In­tense ex­er­cise is the key to stim­u­lat­ing BDNF and its pos­i­tive ef­fects. And it seems likely that the greater the in­ten­sity and the more of­ten you ex­er­cise, the more BDNF you pro­duce. Dr Bre­desen sug­gests com­bin­ing aer­o­bic ex­er­cise with weight train­ing, prefer­ably at least four or five times a week, for 45-60 min­utes in to­tal each day. Aim for 30 min­utes to within 60-70pc of your max­i­mum heart rate.

If you don’t im­me­di­ately no­tice the ben­e­fits, don’t give up — one study showed that you need to keep ex­er­cis­ing for at least five weeks to pro­duce higher lev­els of BDNF. If you’re low in mo­ti­va­tion, think about in­vest­ing in a fit­ness tracker such as a Fit­bit or Garmin to set tar­gets and help track your heart rate and mon­i­tor your progress.

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