You may know that a regular workout improves the body. What is less clear has been the effect of physical exercise on the brain. The brain is considered to be a muscle (although 60-70 percent is really fat), and as with the body, if you don´t use it enough, it may start to deteriorate. The good news is that there are a range of precautions to boost a healthy mind.
- An effective training to boost the neuronal connections in the deeper parts of the brain such as the brain stem is neuromuscular training. This basically constitutes doing slow (the slower the better) movements, diagonal movements (ie. right arm and left leg) and rotational movements (ie. moving the thumbs in opposite directions).
- Recent discovery of a protein called BNDF has led to an increased understanding of the link between the body and mind. After a workout, we see a general buildup of BNDF in the brain, primarily the hippocampus. BNDF has crucial effects on the neurons. Generally it encourages the growth of neurons (and thicker myelin sheaths), by building stronger links, and at the same time protects against cell death. In fact, in 2007 a German researcher discovered that people learn 20 times faster following physical exercise than before they worked out. These findings correlated with the levels of BDNF in the brain.
- The Human Growth Hormone (“HGH”) can be considered the fountain of youth, due to its age reviving effects on cells. Ways to boost the HGH production from the pituitary gland is by either having spurts of a high intensity workout and/or muscle training. What is interesting is that this increase of HGH in the circulation lasts many hours after you exercise. Conversely, a high intensity workout leaves higher amounts of BDNF in the brain as compared to a lower intensity workout. I would point out here that it is better with shorter burst of high intensity, as this will have better effect on the generation of HGH than longer stretches of high intensity. In a comparative study, Doing a series of squats doubled the HGH levels compared with running at high intensity for thirty minutes.
- Exercise boosts the amount of dopamine, which sparks motivation. Sticking to an exercise regimen will boost the reward centers in the brain, and make it easier to stick with the workout schedule.
Overall, exercise improves learning in three ways:
- Increases alertness, attention and motivation
- Encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, an essential aspect of learning new tasks
- Boosts the production of nerve cells in the hippocampus (from stem cells)
So get to it and start exercising today!