Research indicates that exercise may encourage brains to work at optimum capacity, by causing nerve cells to multiply, strengthening their interconnections and protecting them from damage.
Benefits extend diseased and damaged nerves, which could result in new treatments for those with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or spinal cord injuries.
Lab tests on animals have shown that when they exercise, their nerve cells release proteins known as neurotrophic factors.
One in particular, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF, triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health. Even simply adding BDNF to neurons in a lab causes them to grow, sprout branches, and extend them rapidly.BDNF has been shown to have direct benefits on brain functions, including learning and slowing or repairing neural illnesses.
There has been compelling recent evidence that suggests exercise makes you smarter. This new study documents that the neurological benefits of exercise have been on the scientific radar for the past half-century, according to this excellent piece in Science News.
Observational reports started cropping up in the early '50s from doctors who witnessed the various neurological benefits of using exercise in their practices, such as:
Scientists have observed how BDNF works in various animal studies comparing mice caged with running wheels versus those that weren't. In fact, a group of rats housed with wheels in a 2004 study ran an amazing 48 kilometers a day!
After dissecting their brains, researchers found the exercising rats had more new neurons and stronger connections, meaning a higher capacity for learning.
I really believe you obtain a much better perspective of exercise if you view it like a drug that needs to be prescribed precisely to achieve the maximum benefit.
When you use the right dose you will receive absolutely amazing benefits, but if you under or overdose you will either not achieve the results you seek or suffer from unnecessary side effects.
So bottom line is that one of the best investments you could ever make in your health is your commitment to a regular exercise program that you can do the rest of your life.
This is because exercise is not like money. You simply cannot bank it. Even if you were a world-class athlete, in about two weeks of non-exercise you would start to experience serious deconditioning.