Scientific Research Shows That Exercise Stimulates the Brain
Exercise has been linked to improving health in numerous studies, but researchers are just now beginning to understand how exercise affects cognition. The process begins in the muscles. As a bicep or quad contracts and releases it sends out chemicals that travel to the brain. One such chemical being studied is known as IGF-1. This chemical travels from the muscle through the bloodstream into the brain. Once in the brain this chemical ramps up the production of several other chemicals including neurotrophic factor or BDNF. BDNF is the “Miracle Grow” for the mind. It fuels almost all of the activities associated with higher thought.
Through consistent exercise, the body builds up its levels of BDNF, and the brain's nerve cells start to branch out, join together and communicate with each other in new ways. This is the process that underlies learning: every change in the junctions between brain cells signifies a new fact or skill that's been picked up and stowed away for future use. BDNF makes that process possible.
As scientific research is continued more and more information is showing a link between a fit body and a fit mind. Researchers at the University of Illinois, Department of Neuroscience and Kinesiology tested children who performed physical activity such as swimming and other sports were tested for intelligence. The children who were the most physically fit had the strongest, active minds. This makes sense physically when we take into consideration that exercise increases blood flow throughout the body. More blood equals more oxygen, thus providing greater nourishment to the brain.
Studies are also showing a link between exercise and the creation of new neurons in the hippocampus, which is the center of learning in the brain. Scientists have seen the growth of new nerve cells as well as the effect on old nerve cells. Exercise stimulates the old nerve cells to form dense, inter connected webs that make the brain run faster and more effectively. Children with Autism, ADHD and other neurological disorders are showing improved motor skills, increased communication and positive behavioral change. Mental disease in adults, such as Alzheimer’s is being staved off through the powers of physical activity. With this ever increasing knowledge the possibilities of how exercise boosts brainpower is simply miraculous.
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