It’s common knowledge that excercise is good for us, essential even, for a variety of reasons.
The Mayo Clinic delineates seven benefits of exercise, including: weight control, combats diseases, improves mood, boost energy, promotes better sleep, improves, well, sex, and the seventh, it’s just fun.
But did you ever consider what benefit exercise could be to the brain? I’m talking about brain cells, not just mood improvement.
An article in The New York Times caught my attention this morning, “How Exercise Can Strengthen the Brain.” This article is about a new South Carolina study recently published in The Journal of Applied Physiology where scientists determined that, in mice at least, exercise not only remodels muscles rendering them more durable and fatigue-resistant, they may also work the same way in our brain cells.
After two months, two sets of mice, and treadmills, scientists in this study discovered after taking samples of mice brain tissue, there was evidence of new mitochondria in brain muscle cells.
Of course, this experiment was conducted with animals, and “mouse brains are not human brains,” Dr. J. Mark Davis, a professor of exercise science at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina and senior author of the new mouse study says. “But,” he continues, “since mitochondrial biogenesis has been shown to occur in human muscles, just as it does in animal muscles, it is a reasonable supposition that it occurs in human brains.”
“Past experiments have shown persuasively that exercise spurs the birth of new mitochondria in muscle cells and improves the vigor of the existing organelles. This upsurge in mitochondria, in turn, has been linked not only to improvements in exercise endurance but to increased longevity in animals and reduced risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease in people. It is a very potent cellular reaction,” says the New York Times article.
An excellent argument for renewing our commitment to exercise, even moderately. It’s time to dust off those walking shoes and head out into this beautiful world as the air turns more crisp and the leaves begin their final show. Breath deep, look outward, and appreciate the beauty. And when that hill gets a little steep, congratulate yourself, you’re building mitochondria and very likely strengthening your brain cells.