I think by now we all know how good exercise is and the benefits we receive from it, like for example, reducing most people´s risk of developing diabetes and growing obese, but still people don´t do it. So how can we change this? Maybe by giving them more information and making them realize that exercise is not only going to improve their quality of life but also help them in their job.
For some people their job is everything, so if we can show that exercise will help them in their job, then maybe this will make them live a more active lifestyle.
A recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience has seen that physical activity reorganizes the brain, so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function. What this study did was to compare two groups of mice. One group was given unlimited access to a running wheel, while the other group had no running wheel. Usually, a normal mouse will run up to 4 kilometers any given day. After 6 weeks, the mice were exposed to cold water for a brief period of time. And what the scientists were able to see is that the brains of active and sedentary mice behaved differently almost as soon as the stressor (cold water) occurred. What happened is that in the brains of active mice there was a spike in the activity of neurons that shut off excitement in the ventral hippocampus, a brain region shown to regulate anxiety, while in the sedentary mice this did not happen.
This basically means that physical activity reorganizes the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function. This is very important and something we should not forget, but something almost as important is that the brain can be extremely adaptive!! What I mean by this is that the brain may create anxiety in less physical fit people for a reason. Anxiety often manifests itself in avoidant behavior and avoiding potentially dangerous situations would increase the likelihood of survival (Remember that the last 10,000 years only represent 1% of human evolution). So from an evolutionary point of view, maybe anxiety was good to protect the less physical fit people, but now in age we don´t really need it.
So in conclusion:
- Exercise reorganizes the brain to be more resilient to stress.
- The people who exercise will usually have less anxiety.
- Anxiety, from an evolution stand point, was good to protect the less physical fit people, but now in age we don´t really need it.
- The brain can be extremely adaptive.
Scoenfeld T, Rada P, Pieruzzini P, Hsueh B, Gould E. Physical Exercise Prevents Stress.Induced Activation of Ganule Neurons and Enhances Local Inhibitory Mechanisms in the Dentate Gyrus. Journal of Neuroscience. May 2013.
- Why to Exercise Today: Grow Your Brain (commonhealth.wbur.org)
- Exercise Could Prevent Alzheimer’s, Boost Brain Health Through Domino Effect Of Protein Production (medicaldaily.com)
- Research explores how exercise keeps brain healthy (triblive.com)
- Aerobic exercise improves memory, brain function and physical fitness (medicalnewstoday.com)