Since you’re on my site, you no doubt appreciate that exercise – any get-up-and-move activity that makes you breathe hard and gets your heart pounding – is a boon to your emotional and physical health.
Nothing like exertion to lift your day, fire your metabolism, and tone your muscles.
Well here’s another incentive to get moving. And this one is mind-blowing… literally.
Regular exercise boosts our levels of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF. And by “regular,” I don’t mean Ironman-level training. With 20 to 30 minutes of a cardio exercise, three times a week, you can get your own BDNF rush.
And what a rush it is.
BDNF – a “growth factor” protein that’s active in our brains’ hippocampus, cortex, and basal forebrain – stimulates the growth of new brain cells; boosts mood; supports stable functioning of brain circuitry (those neural connections that help you think and learn); strengthens long- and short-term memory; and improves a host of other cognitive processes, including spatial, episodic, recognition, and verbal memory.
No wonder exercise is now included in the toolbox of interventions for people with brain injuries; psychiatric concerns, including depression and schizophrenia; dementia; Alzeheimer’s; and Parkinson’s.
And no wonder a 2015 report in the Journal for Psychiatric Research called exercise a “broad spectrum intervention.” It looked at 29 different studies examining the effect of exercise on BDNF levels and found “reliable evidence” that “each episode of exercise results in a ‘dose’ of BDNF activity and that the magnitude of this ‘dose’ can be enhanced over time by regular exercise.”
For centuries, people have been exploring and pondering the seemingly magical relationship between mind and body. The research on BDNF helps to make that magic very real, indeed.