Get Smart by Getting Fit!
In old the days (and maybe still today) the nerds would look upon the jocks as dumb. We’d see the same being portrayed in movies and such. Heck, even in the recent Planet Fitness commercials, the idea of those that really train are looked upon as dumb and only caring about their muscles.
The truth is that all of those beliefs are utter nonsense!
Exercise and even the kind that those high jocks did, helps to increase the size of the brain as well as the intelligence level. In several recent studies, including some at UCLA, exercise helps to increase the size of the hippocampus (that area of the brain responsible for learning and memory). It does this by the expression of a gene and protein known as the Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).
BDNF helps in what is known as neurogenesis (creation of new neurons/brain cells) and neuroplasticity (how the brain reorganizes itself by creating new neuroconnections). Both are important in learning and memory as well as cognition. When we exercise and then use our brains in meaningful ways, like reading a new book or learning a new skill, we help it to grow. And we then get smarter. This happens all throughout our life. In fact, this one-two punch of exercise and applied learning helps to stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s disease (if you have a tendency to get it).
By the way, a smaller hippocampus leads to both depression and an increase in dementia. You see, serotonin is being produced as well as brain growth happens in this area.
While all forms of exercise helps in increasing BDNF in the brain, by far the best is interval training and in particular, high intensity interval training (HIIT). The higher the physical stress to the body, the more that BDNF is being produced. In fact, even fasting can help raise levels of BDNF. Still, nothing comes close that HIIT and its various forms. Things like wind sprints that jocks do on football fields or on basketball courts are great for producing BDNF. The old style, heavy, grunting gyms will out-do the patsy style gyms as far as increasing the size of the brain. You don’t need a gym though. All you need it to really challenge yourself physically. I mean, you gotta go at it hard and do it consistently. Then after you workout, start learning something new. That combination is the best.
And make sure to eat a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep as well. You’ll need it all for complete brain health. Get smart and get moving physically!
Cheers, Bob Choat