Exercise has long been touted as a way to keep our bodies healthy, but did you know that it can also have a profound impact on our brain health?
New research published in The Journal of Physiology suggests that just six minutes of high-intensity exercise on a regular basis can slow brain aging and delay the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The key to this brain-boosting benefit lies in a specialised protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF promotes neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to form new connections and pathways, and the survival of neurons.
Studies have shown that increasing the availability of BDNF encourages the formation and storage of memories, enhances learning, overall boosts cognitive performance, and could protect the brain from age-related cognitive decline.
But how exactly does exercise boost BDNF production? The researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand compared the effects of fasting, light exercise, high-intensity exercise, and a combination of fasting and exercise on BDNF levels.
They found that the most efficient way to increase BDNF was through brief but vigorous exercise. In this case, it was a short but intense bout of cycling that increases BDNF by four to five-fold more compared to fasting or prolonged activity.
The cause for these differences is not yet known and more research is needed to understand the mechanisms involved.
However, one hypothesis is that the brain’s transition from consuming glucose to lactate during exercise initiates pathways that result in elevated levels of BDNF in the blood.
The observed increase in BDNF during exercise could also be due to the increased number of platelets, which store large amounts of BDNF and are heavily.
The study involved twelve physically active participants aged between 18 and 56 years. The balanced ratio of male and female participants was to provide a better representation of the population rather than indicate sex differences.
So, there you have it. If you’re looking for a way to naturally increase BDNF and help with healthy aging, six minutes of high-intensity exercise could be your answer.
Of course, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of exercise on BDNF and cognitive benefits, but it’s exciting to know that something as simple as exercise could have such a powerful impact on our brain health.
So next time you hit the gym or go for a run, remember that you’re not just doing it for your physical health, but also for your brain.
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