Exercise and Our Brain

All of us are aware of how beneficial and important exercise is to our overall well being – strong, toned muscles; improved circulation; stronger bones – the list goes on.  But not many realize the benefits of exercise for our brain.  An  article in my local newspaper revealed some new research done at University of Victoria, Victoria, BC Canada.   I will recap the article.


Let’s start with some brain facts from the article:  "The human brain contains more than 100 billion brain cells, or neurons, each linked to as many as 10,000 other neurons."  "As we grow older we lose neurons and branches of cells called dendrites, that allow communication between cells, in humans, these losses start around ages 60 to 65."

"Christie’s research has shown that exercise can induce long-term structural and functional changes in the connections between brain cells.  Exercise won’t cure a disease, he says, but can slow down its progress and improve mental capacity."


Now for a recap of the research by Dr. Christie:  "University of Victoria neuroscientist Dr. Brian Christie was one of the first researchers to discover that exercise stimulates the growth of brain cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved with learning and memory.  The finding debunked the long-held belief that our brains aren’t able to produce new cells – known as neurons – as we age.  We now know that new neurons are
produced continually throughout our lives and this process can be ramped up or dampened by our lifestyles, says Christie."  "The applications of Christie’s research are astonishingly broad.   Exercise seems to reduce the impact of any stress on the brain, whether the stress comes from a hard day at work or from neurological disorders such Alzheimer’s disease, autism, stroke or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder"  


The article did go on to explain the benefit of exercise with children diagnosed with FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder).   Christie and his team have demonstrated that exercise promotes the growth of new neurons in FASD brains, and that these neurons are better able to communicate with each other.   I think this early research has shown us that exercise not only benefits the physical body but also our mental capacity.  Just one
more reason to keep up your exercise program, or if you haven’t included exercise as a daily part of your life, then no time like the present.  Our brains should not be neglected.  I for one must keep exercising.  Now that I am addicted to Sudoku puzzles, I will need all the neurons and dendrites I can muster!

Till next time,
Narina Prokosch

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  • http://www.coachchic.com/ Dennis Chighisola

    Thanks for that awesome article, Mike.

    Ironically (I think), a lot of us business types forget about — or feel too tired to — fit some exercise into their busy routines. And this is especially true as we get stressed or feel to the point of mental exhaustion. Yet, taking an exercise break is exactly what “the doctor would prescribe”!

    (Hey, did I just tell myself something, Mike? LOL!)

  • http://www.victoriawellness.com Narina Prokosch

    Mike – you are right. I know myself, that is exactly what I need when feel stressed or mentally fatigued. Hit the workout – you will feel so much better and be able to focus more clearly work “stuff”.