Level 3: Exercise
Exercise Makes You Smarter
Medical science has now concluded that as little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day is enough for "Brain Training" for most adults. More is better if you want to enhance the other health benefits we all know exercise provides.
The "Mind Body Connection" is cutting edge science today. It may have been the ancient Greeks that discovered the the mind body connection, but today we know areobic exercise not only pumps more blood to your muscles it helps your heart send more blood to the rest of your body as well, including your Brain. More blood means more oxygen and more oxygen means healthier brain cells. Better nourished brain cells improve cognition which fuels higher levels of thought.
The endorphins exercise produces also improves your ability to Concentrate, which assists you in blocking out distractions and improves your ability to set priorities. When you are less impulsive it sharpens your focus which enhances your memory. Improved recall makes your thinking more accurate, giving you greater access to your most important skills. "High Levels of Productive Thought" require lots of energy…especially when you need a boost in creativity. Serious creativity is more than a jolt from out of the blue. It's hard work and you have to stay with it which means you need mental and physical endurance. Several studies indicate you are better able to use both sides of your brain when it is well nourished which leads to more balanced thinking.
Sometimes we all need incentives to perform well and unlike the physical benefits exercise provides which build up over time, "The Mental Rewards Are Immediate." Even as little as 10 minutes of vigorous exercise can trigger the release of pleasure chemicals within our nervous system that calm us down, make us think more clearly, perform better and even make us happier. If you exercise today your Brain will reward you today…and if you lack patience just knowing a fast solution is out there can be very comforting.
Studies have shown consistent exercise can assist you in stimulating both sides of your brain.
Achieve immediate results in 10 minutes.
In studies of students, vigorous exercise was shown to improve IQ scores by 3.8 points—and test scores, too. This applies to adults, as well. Exercise improves memory, releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (a protein that makes your neurons healthier), and has been shown to potentially increase the size of your hippocampus—the part of the brain responsible for memory and spatial recognition. It’s no surprise, then, that college students who work out before class do better on tests, and workers who work out are more efficient.
Exercise Boosts Mood and Cognition at a Neural Level
Increasing BDNF has long been known to stimulate neurogenesis (the growth of new neurons) in anyone who does regular aerobic exercise. On pages 97-98 of The Athlete’s Way I write: “According to Ronald Duman, Ph.D. at Yale University, chronic stress, anxiety, and depression have been linked to atrophy or loss of neurons, and exercise has been linked to the growth of new neurons. The primary hormone triggered during the degeneration of neurons seems to be cortisol, which appears to shrink the hippocampus, our memory hub."
Exercise has been proven to promote neurogenesis by increasing BDNF and lowering cortisol. Irisin and BDNF are both responsible for making your neurons stronger. Fuman has observed a similar level of neurogenesis in people who exercise as is triggered by antidepressants. He hypothesizes that it may be the new cell growth that is actually lifting people’s spirits when they take an SSRI, which would explain why it usually takes about two to four weeks for the positive effects of an antidepressant to kick in. Antidepressants work like exercise in that they increase BDNF, which may ultimately be why they are effective at elevating mood.
Justin Rhodes, Ph.D, a neuroscientist at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland found, “BDNF helps support and strengthen synapses in the brain. We find exercise greatly activates the hippocampus and grows more neurons there. In fact, the BDNF concentration in active mice increased as much as 171% after seven nights of wheel running. The more running, the more BDNF”
But there is an important caveat—the benefits of BDNF can max out and backfire if you overdo it. Rhodes found that the ultra-endurance mice who ran all day and night ultimately became terrible at navigating a maze. His research discovered that the best performing mice tended to run two or three miles a night, which I think is probably the perfect average amount of ‘endurance’ for humans, too. As an ultra-runner, Dr. Rhodes’ research played a big role in persuading me to lower my distances a few years ago. Now I like to run at a ‘tonic level’ of mid-level endurance distances.
According to recent research in the field of neuroscience, here's a breakdown of what happens when you head out for that lunchtime run:
1. As you exercise, your muscles contract.
2. This releases chemicals, including a protein called IGF-1.
3. IGF-1 travels to the brain and stimulates the release of several chemicals, including brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF).
4. Regular exercise increases levels of BDNF.
5. BDNF stimulates neurons (brain cells) to branch and connect in new ways.
6. New junctions between neurons are the basis of learning.
The take-home message? Bodies that exercise regularly stimulate brains to have higher levels of BDNF; brains with higher levels of BDNF have greater capacity for knowledge.
Strength Training Improves Cognitive Function In The Brain
The researchers claimed that their results showed that resistance training can indeed improve both your cognitive performance and your brain function. What made these findings so amazing is that strength training will improve two processes that are highly sensitive to the effects of aging and neurodegeneration: executive function and associative memory — often impaired in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Resistance training to work specific muscle groups is an important aspect of fitness, helping increase muscle mass and slow down or halt muscle loss, slow bone loss, and maintain or increase joint flexibility. In the case of the B.C. research, the resistance training program improved associative memory, which refers to the ability of one thought or memory to trigger another, as well as conflict resolution.
Almost one-third had functional MRI’s at the start and end of the study to look for brain activity changes. After six months, compared to those in the balance and tone classes, the strength-training group showed significant cognitive improvement, the researchers said in this week’s issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Those in the strength-training group also showed changes in activity in specific parts of the brain’s cortex that are associated with cognitive behaviour.
The investigators prepared a YouTube video to guide seniors and fitness instructors working with older people on how to start doing simple exercises at home or at the gym. These exercises include the arguable single best muscle-building exercise of all; squats.
Those in the aerobic training group didn’t show the same cognitive improvements. The explanation was that the mental power needed to learn the resistance training could be part of it. Most aerobic exercises are not something that requires much mental capacity. Regardless of the type, it tends to be one foot in front of the other. Learning proper lifting technique, on the other hand, can take years to master.
Exercise controls weight
Combats health conditions and diseases
Promotes better sleep
Reduce stress, increase relaxation
Alleviate anxiety and depression
Prevent cognitive decline
Boost brain power, keeps brain fit
Sharpen memory, improves learning
Basic Foundation Compound Movements:
Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, Overhead Press, Pull ups, Dips, Row Variations, Machine Variations
These multi-joint exercises encompasses all muscular curvatures and recruits the most muscle fibers for the most efficient and effective workout (“the most bang for the buck”).
Clean and Jerk (skill based movement: requires perfect technique if performed), Pistols, Lunges, Dumbbell Variations, Machine Variations (also can include running and sprinting)
High Intensity Exercise, Strength Training, Metabolic Conditioning, High Intensity Interval Training
Always practice and perform perfect technique for maximum safety and effectiveness. Warm up and stretch properly to prevent injury. Keep it brief, intense, infrequent, safe, and purposeful.
Watch this playlist to learn more: