Work­outs give your brain a boost

Lesotho Times - - Health -

HAVE you ever felt like pound­ing the pave­ment or do­ing a cou­ple of sun salu­ta­tions seems to in­stantly melt your wor­ries away? It’s not your imag­i­na­tion — but it is your brain.

“What ben­e­fits the body ben­e­fits the brain,” says Dianna Purvis Jaf­fin, PHD, di­rec­tor of strat­egy and pro­gram at the Cen­ter for Brain Health’s Brain Per­for­mance In­sti­tute. “You are not a sep­a­rate brain walk­ing around on top of a body.”

Ex­er­cise revs up com­plex pro­cesses in­side your mind that can curb de­pres­sion, help you keep your cool at work, and even one day give Betty White a run for her money. Here are three brain ben­e­fits of ex­er­cise, plus a look at the sci­ence be­hind them from the in­side out.

Boost your men­tal fit­ness Squats for the booty — and the brain? In­side your head, there are about 86 bil­lion neu­rons de­signed to bark or­ders to the rest of your body — all with the help of chem­i­cal mes­sen­gers called neu­ro­trans­mit­ters. These neu­ro­trans­mit­ters reg­u­late every­thing from your mood and sleep cy­cle, to me­mory and ap­petite.

What’s it to you? Stud­ies show that low lev­els of two of these neu­ro­trans­mit­ters in par­tic­u­lar, glu­ta­mate and gamma-aminobu­tyric acid (GABA), can lead to mood dis­or­ders such as de­pres­sion.

The good news: mod­er­ate ex­er­cise can in­crease these lev­els, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study in The Journal of Neu­ro­science. The re­sult, whether you suf­fer from de­pres­sion or not, is an in­creased re­silience and ca­pac­ity to re­spond to men­tal challenges, a con­cept known as “men­tal fit­ness,” ex­plains study au­thor Richard Mad­dock, MD, a re­search pro­fes­sor at UC Davis Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

This study mea­sured neu­ro­trans­mit­ter lev­els in par­tic­i­pants be­fore and af­ter 20 min­utes of mod­er­ate-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise, so Mad­dock says it’s not clear if lower in­ten­sity ex­er­cise would have the same ef­fect on glu­ta­mate and GABA. But one small study sug­gests that GABA in­creases af­ter 12 weeks of prac­tic­ing yoga.

Ban­ish stress for good If you’re con­stantly feel­ing over­whelmed by the stres­sors in your life, you might want to step up your fit­ness rou­tine. Why? When you’re stressed out your brain se­cretes the “fight or flight” stress hor­mone cor­ti­sol. This is good if you’re about to get mugged on the street, but if your cor­ti­sol lev­els are chron­i­cally el­e­vated, it can cause prob­lems, says Jaf­fin. (Stud­ies have linked high cor­ti­sol lev­els to heart dis­ease, di­a­betes, high blood pres­sure, me­mory loss and more.)

Hit the track, weights or heavy bag, though, and you ex­pose your body to some­thing called “con­trolled stress,” which helps sharpen your brain’s stress re­sponse, Jaf­fin says. “You turn it on when you need it and turn it off when you don’t.” Done and done.

Age with grace It’s never too early to think about hav­ing a healthy brain as you age, and ex­er­cise can help by in­creas­ing your cog­ni­tive re­serve. Trans­la­tion: Your brain will be able to han­dle the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion that comes with age with­out tak­ing its toll on your me­mory, says Jaf­fin.

“If you have more to be­gin with, you have more mar­gin to suf­fer any ag­ing de­cline with­out ac­tu­ally ex­hibit­ing cog­ni­tive im­pair­ment,” she says. “Ex­er­cise seems to be pre­ven­tive in ag­ing and cog­ni­tive de­cline and po­ten­tially Alzheimer’s dis­ease as well.”

An­other A+ fact about ex­er­cise and the ag­ing brain? Be­lieve it or not, older adults who ex­er­cise ac­tu­ally have larger brain vol­umes than those who don’t, ac­cord­ing to a 2006 Univer­sity of Illi­nois study.

Af­ter six months of aer­o­bic train­ing, study par­tic­i­pants had sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in both gray and white mat­ter re­gions of the brain com­pared to those who par­tic­i­pated in non­aer­o­bic stretch­ing and ton­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Gray mat­ter in­cludes neu­rons, which are the ba­sic cells of the cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem, Jaf­fin says, and preser­va­tion of white mat­ter is as­so­ci­ated with im­proved pro­cess­ing speed.

Plus, the hip­pocam­pus, the brain sys­tem as­so­ci­ated with me­mory and learn­ing (and of­ten shrinks with age), is larger in peo­ple who are ac­tive, says Jaf­fin.

This won’t make you smarter, per se, but it will help you re­mem­ber the important things the older you get. And that’s as good a rea­son as any to fit in a work­out today! — CNN

Ex­er­cise revs up com­plex pro­cesses in­side your mind that can curb de­pres­sion.

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