I completed my spring course on Brain and Behavior about a couple weeks ago as an elective towards my BScN degree. Although most of the topics taught in the class were captivating, the most intriguing section had to be learning about the brains ability to heal itself, grow and change in healthy ways when paired with the practice of good habits. Its crazy to think that what we’ve been learning since we were kids about staying healthy and exercising regularly could have such a powerful impact on the success of our brains structure and functions. I mean, I’ve always heard that exercising and movement is great, but it only recently was given more meaning when I connected it to my own life and understanding.
First off lets define what neuroplasticity is. I found a great definition off of brainline.org which states that..
“Neuroplasticity is the brain’s amazing capacity to change and adapt. It refers to the physiological changes in the brain that happen as the result of our interactions with our environment. From the time the brain begins to develop in utero until the day we die, the connections among the cells in our brains reorganize in response to our changing needs. This dynamic process allows us to learn from and adapt to different experiences.”
Research suggests that exercise is one of the most transformative activities that benefit the brain. Some of the many benefits as stated by Dr. Suzuki, a professor of neuroscience and well known for her research in expanding the fields literature, include..
- Increased mood and energy
- Much better memory
- Increased attention span (can last for at least 2 hours longer than normal)
- Immediate effects of the brain ex. increased dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline which help you ‘feel good’ after just a single workout
- Greatly improve reaction time (incase you’re clumsy like me and tend to drop things all the time)
- Enhanced protection on the brain
“Exercise helps to change the brains anatomy, physiology and function.” ~Dr. Suzuki~
A Great example of this is looking at the effects of exercise on the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex (area in the brain dedicated to memory and focus respectively). New brain cells are generated in response to consistent exercise and these brain cells help to beef up the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, increase their volumes and improve long term memory, attention span and focus. These areas are vital not only because they deal with so many complex cognitive functions but also because they are the target for many neurological diseases and cognitive deficits that come with aging. Diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer’s tend to eradicate cells associated with these areas, thereby leaving you or your loved ones with cognitive impairments. This being said there is no actual cure for Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, however, with proper exercise, you can build up your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex to substantially delay the effects of these detrimental diseases. Suzuki says it best “exercise is like a super charged RRSP –(retirement fund) for your brain.”
“To reap long lasting benefits of the brain, make sure you change your workout regime and increase your cardio respiratory functions”
Dr. Suzuki suggests to simply..
- Exercising 3-4 times a week
- Minimum of 30 minutes for each workout session.
- Aerobic exercise (like walking, jogging, swimming etc.) in order to elevate your heart rate.
To conclude I want to leave you guys with a link to purchase Dr. Suzuki’s book titled Healthy Brain, Happy Life. And if you are wondering where I got content for this post its mostly found here in Suzuki’s TED talk video. I recommend watching to the end, its my primary inspiration for writing on this subject for my blog.
Thank you for reading this weeks blog! let me know in the comments if it was something that interested you and like the blog post if you had a fun time learning or reviewing this topic. I hope to write on more educational subjects in the near future. But for now keep exercising, keep growing your brains and Ill see you next time!