Friday, July 20, 2007

Your Brain on Exercise

There was an astonishing article in Newsweek a few weeks back that just blew my mind/brain/cranium/noggin. Here's what I've learned from this article and further research. We all known that working out and exercising does amazing things for our bodies, and the benefits other than weight lose and getting fit are endless. Most of us also know that when your heart, legs and lungs get pumping you feel much better than if you did nothing. Turns out that 20 minutes or more of cardiovascular and/or high paced resistant workouts effect every aspect of your life. The great thing about this article is that it really laid out the scientific findings over the last few years. Here's the scope. When you're forced to pull more oxygen into the body through exercise you break what's called "the blood brain barrier." It happens when you climb a long flight of stairs and when you're busting through any kind of workout that gets your heart rate pumping. This oxygen filled blood makes it's way into the temporal lobe of the brain. Inside the temporal lobe is an area called the Hippocampus. Inside the Hippocampus lies this seahorse shaped area known as the Dentate Gyrus. As you exercise these oxygen filled blood cells rush into this area of the brain. A chemical/protein IGF-1 is formed then released inside the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus which ramps up another chemical/molecule called BDNF. IGF -1 & BDNF are "Miracle-grow" for the brain.

Studies with kids right up to seniors have proven that high paced workouts (Power 90, Power Half Hour, Master Series, P90X, Tony & The Kids, etc.) cause the release of these chemicals into the brain. Combine this with even more "brain drugs" like dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine and you've got yourself a feel good party in your head. Aerobic and elevated heart rate activities cause the release of these chemicals, which in turn helps you focus and gives you energy when you need it. They also help you relax, stay calm under pressure and allow the body to rest properly. It's like a home made chemistry set inside your skull that produces a cocktail simulating the effects of Prozac and Ritalin. Children who play outdoors score better on tests than kids who don't. Regular physical activity improves, memory, mood, and problem solving abilities. Consistent exercise raises self-esteem and decreases anxiety. Study after study has proven that people who exercise 5 to 6 days a week greatly decrease their need for psychotherapeutic drugs. If your brain goes without regular bouts of exercise the hippocampus will shrink and erode, which can lead to neurological illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease. When the dentate gryus of the hippocampus is stimulated neuro-genesis or neuro-plasticity occurs. I'm not talking about slowing the aging process, I'm telling you that the brain creates new cells through exercise. Brand new cells that assist in the reversal of aging. If you're looking for the fountain of youth, you can find it inside your head every time you exercise for more than 20 minutes. TMT X 2 anyone?


9_Reps said...

Tony - Great article! I can't wait to get my hands on the Ten Minute Trainer series..."20 seconds left...whatcha ya gonna do with it?"...hehe...

gotta run...we're having those new Wendy's Bacon-ator's for dinner...NOT!!!


nick said...

Hey Tony,

That lecture on brain health and exercise was one of the most definitive highlights of NY camp. I almost enjoyed it as much as that fast-paced run we did down that hill:) Anyway, the information you dispensed to us all really made me reassess my goals as far as exercise and diet. I mean, how can you argue with proven scientific facts that show that exercise increases neurotransmitters, such as epinephrine, and norepinephrine. In fact, part of the explanation for the benefits of exercise is that like the antidepressants, moderate aerobic exercise increases neurotransmitter levels in the brain, and these in turn stimulate neurotrophic factors to nourish the hippocampus. However, the antidepressive effect of exercise in animal studies is more immediate — within 2 weeks — rather than the more extensive time it takes (several weeks) with antidepressant drug therapy. Exercise may be stimulating at least two pathways, one that overlaps the antidepressant pathway, and another that is more direct. The latter appears to stimulate another type of neurotransmitter, which in turn produces specific molecules that function to promote survival of neurons in the hippocampus. Finally, exercise, at least in younger animals, has been demonstrated to increase the vascular network of the brain. This, too, will help promote neurodevelopment via increased delivery of nutrients to vital areas of the brain.

Now, that's money!


Anonymous said...

Tony, thanks for that reminder of your "Brain on Fitness" seminar from camp! I agree with Nick...that was one of the highlights for me too. My Mom (who is 81) has had a lot of memory loss in the last few years, and avoiding that in my old age is a priority for me.

I read some articles on this since I returned from camp, and I was especially intrigued that it's even MORE effective on young brains! Time to pull out my daughter's Tony and the Kids DVD and get her moving with her Mom!

Judy (aka cani)

Anonymous said...

Hey Judy, Hey Nick,
Thank you Tony for blogging about this because like my two peers I agree this was a highlight from camp, right behind yoga but tops for seminar. I keep trying to take your advice everyday and surround myself with postive people and like minded people (too bad Pres Bush surrounds himself with like minded people) and I'm trying to saying nothing around those who are negative. I just try and breath. Any ways, take care and thanks for being you.

Joey P from camp (joey1459)

Anonymous said...

Love this article. I always say that exercise lifts my mood, relieves stress, and so on, but didn't really know why. This is just another one of those things that makes exercise literally, addicting.

People sometimes ask other people who are obsessed with exercise "Why do you do that?" or "Don't do anything fun once in a while?" And my answer is always, "I do enjoy exercise, it's my # 1 HOBBY!"