We have long understood the value of exercising for giving a person greater brain power, and keeping it as they age. So this is more of an update on what medical science is finding as they test further on the subject and just as important for motivational purposes to understand why. If we really have a firm grass on why exercise tricks these brain mechanisms it should compel us to go to the gym to put them to work.
The definitive studies on exercise and mental enhancement are still being done on animals. They have not been able to directly link these effects in humans, but it is believed the results found in animals can also be applied to humans. And what testing revealed is that animals that exercised had healthier brains and did much better on cognitive tests than animals that did not. Animals had to exercise to become smarter.
So how does exercise trigger the rejuvenation of our brain tissue? Much of the conversation now revolves around brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. This can be described as proteins released by the brain cells, and once activated the brain stem cells are converted into new neurons. The higher level of BDNF appears to have a rejuvenating effect, as higher levels are found in the bloodstream after working out. They have been described as a sort of fertilizer for the neurons of the brain, making them grow quicker with stronger connections.
Furthermore, the studies found that exercise can actually increase the number of brain cells, particularly in the brain region known as the hippocampus. This is especially important for those suffering from depression. Often people with depression have fewer cells in this area of the brain, and if exercise can grow and invigorate brain cells in the hippocampus it certainly would have been better answer than taking antidepressants.
It's probably true that we know exercise makes us feel better, or especially once we recover. By way to help in normalizing insulin levels and boosting the production of endorphins we always feel more invigorated after a workout. Endorphins, the feel good hormones in the brain act not only to enhance our outlook on life, but are now seen as having the best way we know to fight depression.
If you want to get the brain chemicals dopamine, which affects emotional response and the ability to fall pleasure, and serotonin, affecting mood, sleep and memory, you have to exercise. So what exercises are best, and how much do you need.
Anything that gets you moving will help, and that includes walking, gardening or mowing the lawn. But the more intense exercises, such as high intensity interval training or anaerobic exercise like powerlifting will result in greater results. What has been found not to work is stretching, or any other exercise that does not require movement. As far as length of time to exercise, again any length of time is better than none. But it is recommended that at least 30 minutes a day three to five times a week should improve depression issues significantly.