Postdate: 30 August 2017
Sleeping and exercising seem to be opposites but they are both necessary for a healthy brain. Adults should do some kind of averagely intensive training 2.5 times per week, and do some additional muscle and bone strengthening exercises. But not everybody gets this amount of training, which is given as a guideline by the Health Council.
Endorphins against stress
Most people spend their days in a sedentary manner, while the beneficial health effects increase as we exercise more. According to researchers at the University of Oslo, the chance of a stroke with men is lower when they exercise more at a later age. And this is only a physical benefit. Before the endorphins are released to fight stress, your brain sees the increased heart rate as a type of stress. This releases the BDNF protein which 'resets' your memory neurons. This may explain why you feel better after an hour of intensive exercising and why you suddenly see things much more clearly. The endorphins do their work by banning a feeling of discomfort, blocking out pain, and giving a sense of euphoria.
Endurance sports are good for the memory
You don't have to be a top athlete to benefit from the health advantages gained by exercising. To put it more strongly: even a bit more exercising will make a difference! According to neuropsychologist Erik Scherder, exercising can limit the risks of illnesses that cause dementia. This is because, amongst other things, your brain volume increases, even when you have done little exercising for years and you start now. From the book Een Beter Brein it appears that endurance sports such as running stimulate the hippocampus, the area that is important for your memory and orientation. This area becomes increasingly smaller from the age of around 50. It is a natural process, but by doing endurance sports you can still maintain a sharp mind.
It is never too late to start doing sports when you want to make your brain healthier. The BDNF protein does not work with everybody, but that does not outweigh all the other health benefits of exercising: a good feeling, reducing stress, and a strong body are only just a few of them.
‘The development of the brain comes through movement’