Exercise and Your Brain

From The New York Times  |  By Gretchen Reynolds

Some types of exercise may be better than others at increasing brain power. So says a noteworthy study in rats. It marked the first time scientists ever compared the neurological impact of different types of exercise – sustained running, weight training and high-intensity interval training.

Many studies involving animals and people have demonstrated the link between exercise, increased brain volume and a reduction in the number and size of age-related holes in the brain’s white and gray matter.

What’s new in this research is the emergence of sustained exercise as the most beneficial physical activity for the brain.

Excerpt: ‘Obviously, rats are not people. But the implications of these findings are provocative. They suggest, said Miriam Nokia, a research fellow at the University of Jyvaskyla who led the study, that “sustained aerobic exercise might be most beneficial for brain health also in humans.”

…These results do not mean, however, that only running and similar moderate endurance workouts strengthen the brain, Dr. Nokia said. Those activities do seem to prompt the most neurogenesis in the hippocampus. But weight training and high-intensity intervals probably lead to different types of changes elsewhere in the brain. They might, for instance, encourage the creation of additional blood vessels or new connections between brain cells or between different parts of the brain. 

So if you currently weight train or exclusively work out with intense intervals, continue. But perhaps also thread in an occasional run or bike ride for the sake of your hippocampal health.’

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