“Strength and resistance training generates brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)” writes John J. Ratey, MD, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School. He called BDNF “Miracle-Gro for the brain, because it nourishes neurons like fertilizer. When researchers sprinkle BDNF on neurons in the lab, the cells spontaneously sprout new branches”. Research points to a strong connection between exercise and brain health. Neuroplasticity indicates that the brain is not hard-wired. It responds to exercise much the way the body does. Physical activity that includes resistance, strength, aerobic and balance training enhances the availability of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein which changes the structure and function of the brain by building new connections between neurons forming brand new synapses.
MRI scans of individuals who exercise regularly, show significant growth in the hippocampus and an increase in both gray and white matter.
Which activity enhances the availability of BDNF?
The expression of BDNF is responsive to a variety of stimuli which enhance neuronal activity.
- Thirty minutes of walking, jogging or aerobic exercise four to five times a week to build and increase memory at any age.
- Twenty minutes of Anaerobic or strength training three times a week to increase brain’s cellular structure. This is particularly beneficial for seniors. Brain scans of elders who engage in strength and resistance training displayed the least amount of brain shrinkage.
- Balance and coordination exercises such as yoga and tai chi which are particularly helpful in preventing falls and in building new neuron pathways.
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