I have been pondering around nootropics for a long time now. I have been using some, which I am going to discuss in this Boost your Brain column. It’s not going to be necessarily any drug or substance, but also something you could do, as in this case - exercise.
What are nootropics?
Well, basically any drug, food or substance which boosts cognitive functions of your brain. I don’t necessarily take the drugs by which I mean basically any substance. I have been more interested in what I could do, eat or drink to make my brain better, faster, more focused or remember more! I think my memory sucks, so I have been drinking tea called Baccopa Monnieri, also called Gotu Kola for quite some time, which I think helped (there are a lot of studies done in mice as well as in humans – links are gonna be below the article). I’ve already written an article about it with few more tips to boost your memory, you can check it out here!
That is not particularly anything you can eat or drink and you might ask “How the fuck is exercise going to help my brain, or me?”. There are actually profound effects on your brain from exercising!
What is that? It’s an abbreviation for brain derived neurotrophic factor. What that means? It is neuron growth factor which promotes “growth” of new neurons! BDNF was shown to enhance cognitive functions including learning and memory. How does it do that? Besides growing new neurons, it's also increasing plasticity of your brain, so new synapses get created more easily and faster. It acts against anxiety, depression and stress (I am sure that many of you who exercise feel amazing during or afterwards). Additionaly, it acts as a neuroprotection against Alzheimer’s disease and several others neurodegenerative diseases. BDNF is something you would want it you brain. As you might have guessed already, it’s released during muscle contraction and the more intense the exercise is, the more of stuff is released from the muscle, therefore from the brain. Well to be more specific – there is something that muscles produce, which then help with expression of BDNF gene and then BDNF is produced.
There is also some threshold for some specific benefits from the exercise, so you might get some benefits after ten minutes of running or exercising and some after an hour. It is also good to combine high intense types of exercise with the low intense ones. After an exercise, there is increased plasticity of your brain for a short period of time! Some of the future and even past memories are reconsolidated strengthen during that time! (Your synapses get stronger, therefore your memory gets stronger too)
These too do release during and some after exercise. They can also promote feelings of happiness and improvements in cognitive function such as focus thanks to release of norepinephrine. Amazing is that even small exercise does release some amount of these neurotransmitters!
Exercise requires more energy for your tissues, so it is leading to mitochondrial biogenesis, which are essentially powerhouses of cells. The more you have, the more energy is your tissue able to produce. It also requires a lot of oxygen. New vascular cells are grown at some point so that blood can deliver the oxygen needed in the tissue.
I was aware of some benefits of exercise or working out for my brain, but I didn’t know any specifics. It was after I started going to the gym and just feeling really amazing during and afterwards. If there was something on my mind and I wouldn’t know what to do with it, exercise certainly helped me with that, as I would just get a clear idea and motivation what to do. I can only recommend to everyone they start exercising regularly for their physical and/or their mental health. It might be hard to get to go to gym or for a run, but you can start slowly at home or just by some walks, because they too actually activate some of the stuff above. Then you can go for some more intense things and at some point, you going to develop a habit to do it, which means that it’s going to be almost effortless to go! Your brain is constantly repeating patterns of behaviour and only YOU can build those patters! Build the beneficial patterns and I believe that your way through life is just going to be easier while still being fulfilling. Alright, that is all for me for today, hopefully you enjoyed this article and there is going to be new one soon from Boost your Brain edition again, see you then!
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Links to studies and reviews: