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Even a Short Physical Activity Can Boost Your Brain Power

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  • Even a Short Physical Activity Can Boost Your Brain Power

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    We know that physical activity improves health, protects against obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems. But the beneficial effects of exercise extend not only to our body but also to our mind.

    It has long been known that exercise breaks during mental work improve performance.

    You might think that exercise, like any change in activity, simply allows the brain to get distracted and rest, but in fact, exercise itself directly affects the brain.


    Researchers at the University of Western Ontario have focused on the short-term cognitive effects that appear immediately after physical activity.


    Participants in the study performed a moderate to vigorous stationary bike for 10 minutes.

    After that, they moved on to the second part of the experiment, in which they had to move their eyes in a certain way, depending on what they see on the monitor screen - attention and concentration were required here.

    Task performance was assessed using a special system that tracked eye movements.


    It turned out that immediately after exercising on a stationary bike, there were fewer errors than before, and the reaction speed decreased by 50 milliseconds.


    For comparison, some participants in the experiment, instead of exercising on a stationary bike, simply read a magazine, and they did not have any improvement in cognitive functions.

    An article in Neuropsychologia states that aerobic exercise facilitates mental activity in many ways: on the one hand, exercise can generally excite the nervous system, putting it on alert, and on the other hand, aerobic exercise can affect the conduction of nervous arousal.

    The molecular mediator here is a protein called brain neurotrophic factor, which is intensely synthesized in response to aerobic exercise.


    The immediate effect is that the person becomes more focused, which increases the effectiveness of executive control.


    This is the name for a number of different cognitive processes by which the brain chooses how to proceed and regulates the implementation of the action plan.

    These processes include processing and responding to single or multiple stimuli, scanning and updating working memory (it allows us to keep in mind small pieces of information that we are working with at the moment), as well as inhibitory control, that is, inhibition of impulsive (automatic ) reactions and replacing them with more deliberate ones.

    There is also evidence that exercise can immediately improve memory: a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease says that six-minute sessions on an exercise bike helped older people better remember unfamiliar images that they were shown before exercise.

    The authors suggested that memory improved under the influence of the hormone and neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which is produced during exercise.

    The immediate effect of exercise, unfortunately, does not last long, but it can be prolonged with regular exercise.

    Long-term effects are associated mostly with the same neurotrophic factor in the brain, the level of which periodically rises from regular aerobics.

    This protein not only influences the conduction of arousal but also stimulates and supports the development of neurons and helps them form new connections with each other.


    Thanks to the neurotrophic factor, structural and functional improvements occur in various parts of the brain associated with cognitive functions.


    In 2017, a study was published on the effects of exercise on the hippocampus, one of the main centers of memory.

    After forty years, the hippocampus begins to gradually shrink, but it turns out that regular exercise regains its size.

    Another work followed, in which it was reported that regular interval training (when aerobic and strength loads alternate) improves memory: those who exercised on a stationary bike for 20 minutes several times a week clearly improved memory after a month and a half.

    Physical activity reduces the risk of developing age-related neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, and its powerful anti-stress and antidepressant effects relieve the symptoms of many nervous disorders.

    It is important, however, to note that all this applies specifically to aerobic exercise.


    With strength training, things are more complicated: overly exhausting and frequent workouts maintain a high level of the hormone cortisol, which is produced in response to physiological stress.


    Prolonged exposure to cortisol, on the contrary, reduces the production of neurotrophic factor and has a bad effect on the brain.
    Last edited by Rolf Pettersen; 11-24-2020, 06:35 AM.

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