Your brain is the most energy consuming organ in your body. Despite its size, around 3 pounds, it burns through 25% of the available oxygen you inhale. Comprised of billions of cells (around 90 billion neurons!) this bio-electrical powerhouse maintains a never ending level of activity. Your entire experience of the world, both conscious and unconscious, is holographically represented in the biological, electrically inter-connected structures of the brain. The proper functioning of this organ is critically dependent on a constant, steady stream of blood carrying nutrients, waste, oxygen and exhaust gases into and out of the brain. Even small changes in the homeostasis of the brain can lead to severe problems.
Studies at the University of British Columbia have shown that even moderate aerobic exercise improved brain function. Study participants walked briskly for 60 minutes twice a week. That’s very modest! Their hippocampus, the area of the brain that is responsible for learning and verbal memory, actually increased in size. This is remarkable!
Other studies suggest that the frontal and pre-frontal areas of the brain is larger in people that exercise regularly. And it looks like these improvements become significant after 6 months of regular training.
Studies have also shown that there are certain nutrients, known as nootropics, that can improve memory function. These substances seem to improve brain function by increasing the amount of blood available to the brain and by improving the synaptic connections between the neurons in the brain.
These findings have come at the most opportune time. In fact, a new case of dementia is detected every four seconds, and researchers estimate that there would be 115 million dementia patients in the world by 2050. Exercises can help improve brain functions via direct and indirect means. It affects your brain functions directly by reducing insulin resistance & inflammation and stimulating the release of growth factor hormone. Growth factor hormones increase the blood circulation in the brain and promote the growth of new blood vessels. These same hormones also cause the development of new brain cells (neurons). Exercise helps improve one’s mood and sleep while reducing stress and anxiety over time. These factors help your body and your brain to fend off the onset of all forms of dementia.
What Kind of Exercise Works Best
Almost any exercise that gets your heart pumping and causes you to break out in a sweat will do. That’s the good news. The better news is that all of the workout programs advertised on this web site will give you these benefits and then some. Whether it’s the 20 Minute Body, or P90X2, or the Yoga Burn or any of the others, you will have improved brain health by following one of these programs. The other good news is that, while you could take supplements, the fact is many supplement makers do not publish what’s in their products. This makes it impossible to use empirical logic to determine the likely efficacy of their products. And it seems that, with good nutrition and a good workout regimen, you get the same benefits, and probably even more.
There actually is such a thing – food that makes you smarter. The brain’s furnace prefers to burn carbohydrates. So if you are restricting your carbs, you are limiting the supply of energy available to your brain. Conversely, a sudden flood of carbs, in the form of refined sugars, in the blood causes an insulin response that has the effect of plummeting glucose in the blood. This also affects the brain, and you feel it as an energy slump. However, through a complicated biological process, the brain can also use fat for energy. What??? We are all now learning that there IS such as thing as good fat. Sources of good fat are:
- Coconut Oil
- Fatty Fish (salmon, trout, sardines, anchovies)
- Whole eggs
- Seeds (Chia, Sunflower)
I recommend adding a dollop of coconut oil to your morning coffee. Alternatively use butter. Yes, I said butter. More on this in a subsequent blog.
If you want to read a more in-depth article on the subject, go here.
Some studies show that brain games also seem to improve cognitive function. Exactly how they help is not totally understood, but may have to do with causing the firing of neurons in areas not usually engaged in an individual’s normal activities. This may pump more blood into those areas causing growth, the development of new synapses, and thus better cognition. I think brain games are likely a good supplement to exercise, but not a replacement.
In conclusion, the latest findings reveal that the health of your brain improves with physical activity. So get yourself on a regular workout regimen – it doesn’t have to be long, and, to get the benefits, it doesn’t have to be that intense. However, if you want to get in FABULOUS shape, try out the program I recommend on this sidebar. It is guaranteed to provide all the benefits you’ve read about here.