Recent headlines suggested scientists had “discovered” that exercise was good for the brain, however the recent study out of Cambridge University and the US National Institute on Aging is just part of a growing body of work on the subject.
Of course, our clients have been telling us for years that exercise makes them feel better mentally, from simply making them feel more alert, to increasing their sense of well being, making them nicer people to live with, and helping to keep depression in check.
This SMH article, Brain Cell Secrets Explored, is reproduced in it’s entirety below.
THE health benefits of a regular run have long been known, but scientists have never understood the curious ability of exercise to boost brain power.
Now researchers think they have the answer. Neuroscientists at CambridgeUniversity have shown that running stimulates the brain to grow fresh grey matter and it has a big effect on mental ability.
A few days of running led to the growth of hundreds of thousands of brain cells that improved the ability to recall memories without confusing them, a skill that is crucial for learning and other cognitive tasks, researchers said.
The new brain cells appeared in a region that is linked to the formation and recollection of memory. The work reveals why jogging and other aerobic exercise can improve memory and learning, and potentially slow down the deterioration of mental ability in old age.
The research builds on a body of work that suggests exercise plays a vital role in keeping the brain healthy by encouraging the growth of brain cells. Previous studies have shown ”neurogenesis” is limited in people with depression, but that their symptoms can improve if they exercise regularly.
Scientists are unsure why exercise triggers the growth of grey matter, but it may be linked to increased blood flow or higher levels of hormones that are released while exercising. Exercise might also reduce stress, which inhibits new brain cells through a hormone called cortisol.
The Cambridge researchers joined forces with colleagues at the US National Institute on Ageing inMarylandto investigate the effect of running.
They studied two groups of mice, one of which had unlimited access to a running wheel throughout. The other mice formed a control group.
After training sessions the mice in the exercising group scored almost twice as highly as the other mice in a repeated memory test for a sugar reward, a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said. The sedentary mice got steadily worse at the test.