Your Brain on Exercise
Exercise is the single most powerful tool you have to optimize your brain function. More than Soduko or learning a new language, exercise stimulates your brain. Your brain actually grows new brain cells when you exercise!
In her fascinating New York Times article, How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain, Gretchen Reynolds explains one of the many possible ways that exercise improves the brain’s functioning. She writes:
Just how exercise remakes minds on a molecular level is not yet fully understood, but research suggests that exercise prompts increases in something called brain-derived neurotropic factor, or BDNF, a substance that strengthens cells and axons, fortifies the connections among neurons and sparks neurogenesis. Scientists can’t directly study similar effects in human brains, but they have found that after workouts, most people display higher BDNF levels in their bloodstreams.
In other words, working out somehow causes a chain reaction in the brain that preserves current brain cells and grows new brain cells. Not only does exercise improve your physical health, but your mental health as well.
However, there is a catch. Once the brain grows new brain cells, they need to attach themselves to an active network or they will die. How to do that? Learn something new. Think of these new brain cells as little seeds. Exercise plants them but they need to be fed with knowledge or else they’ll wither away. Sounds like a little exercise plus learning equals the perfect classroom activity!