The Mind Body Connection

Exercise is good for the brain. Why is this important? Because as your body ages and muscles shrink, so too does your brain.

The mind-body connectionScientists are now studying intra-cellular activity in the brain under the effect of exercise and are making some surprising discoveries.

An inactive brain, much like an inactive body, withers and loses its ability to function properly. Under the influence of exercise, new branches of cellular development grow in the brain, keeping it elastic and fully functional. Exercise to your brain (and body) is like water to a plant – it needs it to grow and flourish.

Exercising the body creates proteins that travel through the bloodstream to the brain, where they take turns in maintaining and creating cognitive behavior. You may have heard of these proteins – insulin-like growth hormone or IGF-1 and vascular endothelial growth factor or VEGF. These factors embody the mind-body connection and make it happen.

The absence of these proteins affects cognitive behaviour and productivity. They also affect memory and the amount of data you are able to store and remember throughout the day. These processes involve binding neurons together to make the connection to the brain and then to the body. How efficiently these processes are executed rely on the delicate balance of neuro-chemicals and the growth factors mentioned earlier.

“Exercise has a documented, dramatic effect on these essential ingredients. It sets the stage and when you sit down to learn something new that stimulation strengthens the relevant connections. With practice, the circuit develops definition as if you’re wearing down a path through a forest.

The importance of making these connections carries over to all the issues I deal with in this program. In order to deal with anxiousness, for instance, you need to let certain well-worn paths grow over while you place alternate trails. By understanding certain reactions between your body and your brain, you can manage the process, handle problems and get your mind humming along smoothly.” – John J. Ratey, MD: Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.

All you need is 30 minutes of exercise a day to trigger these growth factors and stimulate brain activity and a high-protein diet, supplemented with whey protein that helps stimulate IGF-1. If you started your day with exercise today, then your brain is better prepared to handle the stresses of the day and absorb information. The result: you’ll be more productive and less fatigued.

There is a catch, however, you have to be in the right frame of mind in order to reap the benefits of exercise. This also has a lot to do with motivation and sticking with an exercise program. You can’t trick your brain. If you hate working out, your brain knows and those paths in the forest will remain restricted.

So, the more important question is why do you hate exercise? Probably because you haven’t found an activity that suits your personality. Exercise should be enjoyable, invigorating and social. Focus on finding something you enjoy. Check with your friends and see how they stay active and join in. Above all, change your attitude towards exercise and your brain will flourish.

Improving Brain Function with Exercise

Exercise is good for the heart and research shows that it can reduce the risk of dementia and slow the condition’s progression once it starts.

brain benefits of exerciseA study out of Mayo Clinic published this month in Mayo Clinic Proceedings shows how important aerobic exercise is in preserving cognitive abilities. Researchers concluded that it should not be overlooked as an important therapy against dementia.

Aerobic exercise is any physical activity that raises the heart rate and increases the body’s need for oxygen, such as:

  • Walking
  • Gym Workouts
  • Shoveling Snow
  • Raking Leaves

“We culled through all the scientific literature we could find on the subject of exercise and cognition, including animal studies and observational studies, reviewing over 1,600 papers, with 130 bearing directly on this issue. We attempted to put together a balanced view of the subject,” says J. Eric Ahlskog, M.D., Ph.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic. “We concluded that you can make a very compelling argument for exercise as a disease-modifying strategy to prevent dementia and mild cognitive impairment, and for favorably modifying these processes once they have developed.”

Extensive research has been done using brain imaging to show objective evidence proving the positive effects of exercise on human brain integrity. And animal studies have conclusively shown that exercise generates trophic factors that improve brain functioning. Further research has shown how exercise increases neuroplasticity in the brain, increasing the rate of regeneration of cells and how fast the brain fires.

The researchers recommend exercise to anyone but especially those with a history of cognitive disease in their family.

“Whether addressing our patients in primary care or neurology clinics, we should continue to encourage exercise for not only general health, but also cognitive health,” Dr. Ahlskog says.

Diet plays a large role in brain health and one supplement that has been clinically proven to improve cognitive function is Omega-3. With a host of other benefits, Omega-3 is one supplement no diet should be without.


Mayo Clinic. “Aerobic exercise may reduce the risk of dementia, researchers say.” ScienceDaily, 7 Sep. 2011. Web. 8 Sep. 2011.

Too much Salt can Dull the Brain

We don’t give much thought to our aging brains until we start forgetting things.

Too much salt can dull the brain New research is now saying that a diet high in salt can affect the healthy cognitive function of the brain and lead to more diseases besides heart disease.

These findings were discovered in sedentary, older adults who had consumed a high-salt diet for a lifetime. Led by researchers at Baycrest in Toronto — in collaboration with colleagues at the Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal, McGill University and the Université de Sherbrooke, this study was published in the online journal Neurobiology of Aging and uncovers new evidence in the search for increasing cognitive health in older adults.

“We have generated important evidence that sodium intake not only impacts heart health, but brain health as well,” said Dr. Alexandra Fiocco, a scientist with Baycrest’s Kunin-Lunenfeld Applied and Evaluative Research Unit (KLAERU) and the study’s lead investigator.

The study itself lasted three years and followed the diets of 1,262 healthy men and women aged between 67 and 84 in Quebec, Canada. These subjects were selected from a larger group of participants in the Quebec Longitudinal Study on Nutrition and Successful Aging (NuAge).

The participants were divided into three groups defined by their daily sodium intake:

  • Low = a maximum of 2,263 mg per day
  • Mid = a maximum of 3,091 mg per day
  • High = in excess of 3,091 mg per day (this reached as high as 8,098 in some individuals)

In addition, participants were tested for cognitive function of the brain with markers at each yearly interval. Their fitness level was also measured using the Physical Activity Scale for the Elderly.

“The results of our study showed that a diet high in sodium, combined with little exercise, was especially detrimental to the cognitive performance of older adults,” said Dr. Fiocco.

“But the good news is that sedentary older adults showed no cognitive decline over the three years that we followed them if they had low sodium intake.”

“These data are especially relevant as we know that munching on high-salt processed snacks when engaged in sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing in front of the computer, is a frequent pastime for many adults,” said Dr. Carol Greenwood, a senior author on the study and internationally-renowned scientist in the field of nutrition and cognitive function in late life.

“This study addresses an additional risk associated with lifestyles that are highly apparent in North American populations.”

This research is revolutionary as until now high sodium intake has only been associated with high blood pressure and heart disease.

Strategies to reduce salt intake have been put place in Canada and indeed many states in the US as well. Health Canada recommends a daily dose of no more than 2,300 mg of sodium for people aged 14 and older.


Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. “Older adults with too much salt in diet and too little exercise at greater risk of cognitive decline, study finds.” ScienceDaily, 22 Aug. 2011. Web. 22 Aug. 2011.

Noggin is Good for Your Noggin

Research is finding more and more evidence that exercise is good for the brain and maintaining an active lifestyle can lessen your risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Noggin is Good for your NogginAs our brains age, we begin to lose our memories and the production of new cells slows down significantly. This condition is made worse by a growth factor called bone morphogenetic protein (BMP), which signals the body to produce more bone and cartilage, and dictates the skeletal architecture of the body. BMP has been shown to have a negative effect on the regenerative activity of brain cells and prevents new cells from being formed.

However, the good news is that with exercise, the brain produces something called noggin which works against BMP to create more brain cells. In effect, the more we exercise, the more active our brains become and the more noggin is produced, leading to longevity and a higher quality of life.

We have proven in animals that exercise increases memory learning and improves behaviour – Northwestern University in Chicago

This research involved studying the brain activity of mice who were fed large amounts of noggin compared to what happened to their brains when their level of activity was increased with wheel and maze work. After a week, the levels of BMP were reduced by half and noggin levels increased. Other research shows that BMP and noggin work in conjunction with one another and when only noggin is present, the cells eventually die out.

If you’re already living a healthy lifestyle, this doesn’t mean you have to start working out harder or more often to get the effect of noggin. Any amount of activity will increase noggin levels. However, if you are making the leap from couch potato to fit-and-buff, I can’t think of a better reason to get on your bike!

Originally published @ FITLODE.COM