Monday, September 27, 2010

Exercise May Rewire the Brain for Happiness

From Discovery Health
Hello! Let me be the first to welcome you to Monday. This morning brings good news to you exercisers out there:  your brain may be more adept at handling stress. The Springfield, Missouri News-Reader reports on a Princeton study that put animals on a six-week aerobic conditioning program. After six weeks, researchers compared the braincells of the exercise group to those of the sedentary control group. The exercised brains morphed into a "biochemically calm" state, while the sedentary brains continued to react strongly to anxiety. Cardiovascular exercise is apparently better for this than strength training, though both have a noticeable effect.

Unfortunately, the article doesn't go into much detail about which animals were used in the study, but Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain explains a similar study with hamsters. In that study, exercise was shown to increase braincell production, as long as the hamsters exercised willingly (as opposed to being forced). This brings up the issue of neuroplasticity, which I've mentioned once or twice. The long and short of it is that brains are more malleable (in a good way) than people realize.

So if you don't exercise regularly, this is another reason to start. Like most things in life, it takes effort and practice, but the benefits are nearly unimaginable!

3 comments:

  1. True!! I realize that regular exercise routine also helps you learn time management - the skill that definately helps control stress levels too.

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  2. great post, they could have mentioned the animals used, you know these experiments aren't always universal for all species.. bats are ok on the dark...for instance.

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  3. Julia: yes, exercise is great for keeping a schedule. I don't know if I'd get out of bed so regularly without it!

    Creative: of course I agree, but as a side note, researchers use animals for these "before and after" tests because animal braincells are easier to count. Hopefully with improved technology, they can count human braincells, which would remove a lot of guesswork in figuring out which species are close enough to humans.

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