Exercise is not only great for the body; it is great for the brain as well. According to John Ratey- MD, the author of SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and The Brain, exercise changes the brain. Exercise causes many positive changes in the brain when it comes to dealing with stress, depression, and anxiety. In addition to the physical and emotional changes that exercise has, scientists are now discovering that exercise can even improve your ability to think better.
Neuroscientists are in the process of proving that exercise can actually increase the amount of neurons (brain cells) and their connections. It was long believed that the amount of neurons do not increase until recent research, using high power scanning machines, showed that with exercise certain parts of the brain do produce new neurons. The increase in neurons and neuron connections seems to be caused by an increase in the amount of growth factors produced in the body (mainly brain-derived neurotrophic factor- BDNF.) Exercise increases BDNF. Doctor John Ratey calls BDNF “miracle-gro for the brain.” Studies have found that mice that have a running wheel in their cage have twice as many neurons in certain parts of their brains than mice without a running wheel. There have also been many studies that have tested exercisers and non-exercisers with different cognitive test before and after exercise. After a bout of exercise, the exercise group almost always increased their scores where the non-exercise group scores stayed the same.
Everyone that exercises knows that you feel much better physically and emotionally after a good run. The part you may not have been aware of is the increased ability to think better. The human body was created to move. The more you move the better your body and mind works. So the next time you have a paper to write or a problem to solve slip on your running shoes or go to the gym first to increase your brains ability to reach its highest potential.*
*Ratey, John M.D., and Eric Hagerman. Spark The Revolutionary New Science Of Exercise And The Brain. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008.