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BRAIN FUNCTIONS BETTER AFTER EXERCISE

SEXUAL ACTIVITY AND BODYBUILDING

TRAINING TIPS: THE CLEAN AND PRESS

CHANGING GRIPS ON THE LOW PULLEY ROWS

TURN YOUR BICEPS INTO CANNONBALLS

SQUATS: MERITS TO WIDE STANCE  

HOW I FIXED MY SHOULDER TRAINING DILEMNA

Y3T CALVES ROUTINE

GENETICS AND ABS ANATOMY 4-6-8 PACKS

FOREARMS: BEEFING THE BRACHIORADIALIS

DEADLIFT VARIATION: THE SUMO STANCE

BODYBUILDING ADVICE: LEAVING THE EGO ASIDE

CHAMP'S ADVICES: UNATI FABE ABOUT PECS

TRAP BUILDING TACTICS

CHAMP'S ADVICES: ELTON HORN ABOUT BICEPS

BUILDING THE X-FRAME

ALTERNATE DUMBBELL SHOULDER PRESS

ALL ABOUT PUSH-UPS

SHOULDERS: Arnold's Front Raise

TRICEPS PRESS DOWN

THE BENT OVER DUMBBELL LATERAL RAISE

LEG PRESS: Techniques & Common Mistakes

 

BRAIN FUNCTIONS BETTER AFTER EXERCISE d

Posted on 2013-07-23
 
My parents always say that I became brighter in my studies when I took up bodybuilding at the age of 14 (Form 4). Later during my undergraduate education, whenever I was stuck with some difficult problem, the same problem would solve itself after a gym session. I was also always in the gym on the eve of most of my major exams. Very often, during my postgraduate education, instead of going home after a grueling night session at the gym, I would go back to the university laboratory and work until late night or early morning. Furthermore, most of the writing of the articles on this website and my masters thesis was done during my post-exercise "mental high" phase. I am sure that most of you must have felt a similar effect.

Your hero found: Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor

Resistance and Endurance exercise both increase BDNF
The processes and biological chemicals regulating brain functioning are very complex and as such there may be many molecules, known and yet unknown, that may contribute to the "feel good" effect after exercise. However, quite recently, research has shown that physical activity increases the expression of a protein called the the brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the brain of rats. Subsequently, several studies were undertaken in humans to see a) whether this protein is also increased after exercise and b) to establish the link between this increase and the enhancement of mood and cognitive functions exercise (Yarrow et al., 2010). Indeed, plasma and/or serum BDNF concentration were increased after exercise in humans (Matthews et al., 2009) and this provided cognitive benefits (described below)

How does BDNF work?
Although originally thought to be produced only in the brain, BDNF is also produced in a variety of body tissues, like skeletal muscle (Fig 1) after which it is released into the bloodstream and transported to the brain. BDNF crosses the blood-brain barrier easily for entry into the brain where it brings about its various functions. Of note, BDNF has activity in the region of the brain called the hippocampus which is involved with memory and learning.

Exercise-induced BDNF provides cognitive mental benefits to students
In one study by researchers in Texas, USA (Ferris et al., 2007), students were made to cycle for 20 minutes at two different intensities (low and high). The researchers used a test called the Stroop Test to assess the cognitive abilities of the students. This test measures the ability of the brain to deal with information. The students performed better at the test after high intensity exercise, as shown in the graph below. The researchers found that the increase in BDNF after exercise was dependent on the intensity of the cycling exercise as higher intensity exercise increases BDNF levels to a greater extent. This explains the better results in the test at higher intensity.


Benefits of BDNF not limited to memory, learning and cognition
Interestingly, the health benefits of exercise-induced BDNF is not limited to the effects of the molecule on the brain. BDNF has also shown promise in obesity and type 2 diabetes. This explains partly why exercise also plays an important role in treating these diseases.


The take-home lessons and a message to parents
Exercise is one of the greatest remedies for both mental and physical problems. Exercise produces so many factors that aid tremendously in health and your body's functioning. If your doctor only prescribes medications and psychoactive drugs do not hesitate to discuss the possibility of also including an exercise program in your treatment. If you are a medical student, seriously learn more about the kind of studies cited in this and other Bodybuilding Mauritius articles. These research papers show a molecular basis of exercise-induced health improvement. Always keep an open mind and do not become a prescribing machine. Do not select a speciality that will only bring a lot of money. Consider becoming a specialist in exercise and sports medicine. Exercise is indeed medicine.
If you are a student, balance your studies with some form of exercise. A personal tip is to go to train after school for some time before you start homework and revision. Contrary to what students think, you must not give up training during exams period, probably step down a bit in frequency and intensity. I have personally always been in the gym on the eve of all my major exams. You must plan your study and revision accordingly.
Do the tasks that require the greatest mental ability after training but don't forget that you also need to recover from training.
If you are a parent, encourage your child to exercise or participate in sports. Contrary to what you may believe, exercise and sports won't distract your child from his studies. On the contrary, these activities help his studies as has been shown above. Do not pressurise your children to excel in his studies and maybe realise the dream that you couldn't realise. Also don't think that bodybuilding and sports in general are for inferior people. You must aim for the complete development of your child, not just school results. For your information, many top universities base their recruitment on participation in sports/ exercise activities. For instance, at the exercise science research unit at the University of Cape Town where I do my studies, every student and staff member is seriously into some form of sport (running, cycling, cricket and rugby being very popular).
 
Vic Veeraj Goyaram