Boost Your Brain Power with Exercise
As an athlete, I like to ask myself, “If exercise can strengthen the brain, then what’s my excuse?” I’m trying to be funny, but the study below is no joke. It shows that exercise not only strengthens muscles, like biceps and abdominals, but can actually “strengthen” the brain.
Well, at least it can in mice.
Starting with the premise that exercise increases mitochondria in muscle tissue, researchers at the University of South Carolina recently found that mice had a significant increase in the amount of mitochondria in their brains after 2 months of exercise.
Mitochondrion (singular for Mitochondria) is like the power plant of a cell, with an increase translating into more energy. This study demonstrated a link between exercise and what is referred to as “mitochondrial biogenesis” – the production of new mitochondria. It is suspected that increased mitochondria in the brain may contribute to greater mental clarity and focus.
The lead researcher, Professor Mark Davis, explained how these findings may have numerous applications, including using exercise programs in the treatment and/or prevention of diseases linked to mitochondria dysfunction, including neurological disorders like dementia. It may also contribute to enhanced athletic performance, by not only building physical endurance, but by reducing mental fatigue as well.
The study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that 20-30 minutes of moderate daily exercise was sufficient for increasing mitochondria. So, next time you’re debating about whether to go take that run or go to the movies, use this as friendly reminder that exercise is not only good for your body, but also good for the mind.
To learn more about this exciting research, you can read New York Times Columnist Gretchen Reynolds’ excellent post on this research, entitled “How Exercise Can Strengthen the Brain.”
Signing off for now…I’m heading to the gym!