“What if I told you there was something that you can do right now that would have an immediate, positive benefit for your brain including your mood and your focus? And what if I told you that same thing could actually last a long time and protect your brain from different conditions like depression, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Would you do it? Yes!” Says neuroscience professor from New York University, Wendy Suzuki, who, after starting to exercise more regularly, discovered first-hand the brain-changing effects of exercise:
“I was actually at the height of all the memory work that I was doing — data was pouring in, I was becoming known in my field for all of this memory work. And I should have been doing great. But when I stuck my head out of my lab door, I noticed something. I had no social life. I spent too much time listening to those brain cells in a dark room, by myself. I didn’t move my body at all. I had gained 25 pounds. And actually, it took me many years to realise it, but I was miserable. So I went on a river-rafting trip, and I came back thinking, “Oh, my God, I was the weakest person on that trip.”
And that’s what made me go to the gym, which at first was really hard. But what I noticed is that after every sweat-inducing workout that I tried, I had this great mood and energy boost that kept me going back. I started feeling stronger. I started feeling better; I even lost that 25 pounds.”
But, as it turns out, the physical benefits were just the beginning of Suzuki’s experience:
“…fast-forward a year and a half into this regular exercise program and I noticed…that I was able to focus and maintain my attention for longer than I had before. And my long-term memory — what I was studying in my lab — seemed to be better in me. And that’s when I put it together…Maybe all that exercise that I had added to my life was changing my brain. So as a curious neuroscientist, I went to the literature…and found what I had noticed in myself. Better mood, better energy, better memory, better attention. And the more I learned, the more I realised how powerful exercise was. Which eventually led me to shift my research focus completely. And this research has led me to the following conclusion: exercise is the most transformative thing you can do for your brain today. Simply moving your body, has immediate, long-lasting and protective benefits for your brain. And that can last for the rest of your life.”
So what are the benefits?
Just one workout immediately increases mood-enhancing neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline, as well as boosts focus, attention, and reaction times for up to two hours.
“…think about the brain like a muscle. The more you’re working out, the bigger and stronger your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex gets…”
This is important because the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus are the two areas that are most susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases and the normal cognitive decline in ageing. So by exercising regularly over time, you help strengthen your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, so it might well take longer for diseases like Alzheimer’s to take effect.
So, just how much exercise do I need to do to see these changes?
“…you don’t have to become a triathlete to get these effects. The rule of thumb is a minimum of three to four 30-minute sessions a week, and you want to get in some aerobic exercise. That is, get your heart rate up.”
But it doesn’t stop there
“…I’ve gone from memory pioneer to exercise explorer…my goal right now is to go beyond that rule of thumb I just gave you (three to four 30 minute sessions a week) to understand the optimum exercise prescription for you, at your age, at your fitness level, for your genetic background, [so that you can] maximize the effects of exercise today while also protecting your brain for the rest of your life.”
If this has inspired you to start moving, make sure you support your new training regime with a good quality probiotic, like Releaf Probiotic Active 12-Strain, which contains a combination of 12 probiotic strains – Vitamin A, D3 and Zinc – that may help support the immune system and connective tissue function as well as promote good health while training.