A recent study from Harvard University is finding that endurance exercise could be key in promoting brain health. And it is a cause to jump (or run, or swim) for joy.
The study was performed by research scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. It was found that when the scientists gave sedentary mice the same protein that was produced by exercising mice, it turned on genes that boost brain health and promote the growth of new nerves in regions of the brain crucial for memory and learning.
It is suggested that the findings of the study could very well lead the way to a new drug that would improve treatments against cognitive decline in the elderly and may help to slow the progression of such diseases as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Bruce Spiegelman, of Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and one of the co-authors of the study, says that it is exciting that a natural substance can be entered into the bloodstream that will mimic some effects endurance exercise has on the brain. An earlier study by Spiegleman’s research group showed that the protein, FNDC5, is produced by muscular exertion and then released into the bloodstream as irisin. The new research is showing that mice who are running on a wheel for about 30 days, experienced a rise in the FNDC5 protein which is turn boosts the brain health protein.
All this is very welcome news for those who are already on the path to a healthier lifestyle. Endurance exercise, when sustained over a period of time, not only improves your cardiovascular health but is also key in managing your weight. Some prime examples of cardio endurance exercises include cycling, walking, swimming, and running.
For those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle, walking is an excellent place to begin. Let’s look at some of the benefits. To start, walking is free. You can do it almost anywhere. If you are hobbled by sore knees or aching joints you can still walk around the block once a day. You set your own pace and work yourself up to faster, longer walks. Throw in some 2-lb. hand weights and now you are gaining muscle as well. And studies show that you are more likely to stick with exercise if you have someone working out with you. Walking is a near-perfect activity.
Another benefit of sustained endurance exercise is core muscle strength. This is especially important as we age. Core muscles are categorized as the muscles to the front, back, and sides of the abdomen. These muscles are very important in keeping proper posture. If one were to slip and begin to fall, the core muscles will be able to hold your body in a more upright position, lessening the fall that could lead to serious injury.
Studies on endurance exercise playing a part in brain health are ongoing. However, by just getting off the couch and moving for 20 minutes a day, you are not only exercising your body, but giving your brain a healthy boost that can improve your overall mood. You don’t need a scientific study to tell you that.
By: Mary Kay Love