Research is Discovering Why Exercise and Brain Health are Connected

How fascinating is it that exercise and brain health are so deeply connected.  In recent years, the world has been making some massive strides toward understanding that physical and mental wellness are not separate entities as we used to believe. Instead, they’re two branches of the same thing and they are profoundly interconnected. This is true to the point that being active on a regular basis can physically alter the shape of your mind for the better.

Researchers Are Discovering the Exercise and Brain Health Link

Exercise and Brain Health ConnectionWhat new research has revealed is that physical activity raises the levels of a chemical involved in cellular growth in the brain. That supports the release of the dopamine “feel good” hormone.  This is helping to spell out just how exercise and brain health are connected, something that has been essentially a mystery until now.

Dopamine is known to have a key part in motivation, learning and movement.  Experts have long known that running on a regular basis increases dopamine activity that could help to provide nerve cells with damage protection.  Moreover, prior research has also linked boosts in a dopamine-triggered chemical known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) from physical activity, and from dopamine levels to the improvements of both memory and learning.  That said, the interaction among these factors hasn’t been well understood.

That’s just what the researchers in this new study decided to figure out, and I love that they made such a big discovery! For some reason, knowing the specifics like this causes me to give more weight to tips encouraging me to get out and move around to preserve my mind as I age.

That Great Feeling from Being Active is Improving Your Mind

The research I read about was conducted by a team at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine.  They found that mice that ran on a wheel every day for a month had 40 percent increases in their dopamine levels in the part of the brain associated with movement, the dorsal stratium, when compared with a control group of mice that didn’t exercise during that time. The running mice also had almost 60 percent higher BDNF levels than the ones that didn’t run.

Also interesting was that the elevated dopamine levels stuck around even after a week of rest, showing that it wasn’t just an immediate and temporary result. Furthermore, when the mice had their BDNF levels artificially reduced, running didn’t cause more dopamine to be released.

When all is said and done, I can see why the researchers determined that it’s those BDNF levels that tie everything together. They seem to be the key to why dopamine levels rise during physical activity, and how exercise and brain health are directly connected.

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