Anything Is Possible Fitness

Brain Benefits of Exercise

I thought this was an interesting article and felt my audience might feel the same. Here you go.

When you work out, your muscles are not the only things getting stronger. Substantial data shows that a moderate amount of intense exercise improves memory.

Doing 20 minutes of intense exercise three times a week increases the size of your hippocampus, the memory center in your brain. A bigger hippocampus correlates with better memory, and exercise can increase your memory power enough to help you score better academically.

Why this happens we aren’t sure. In animal models, intense exercise releases a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which appears to be like Miracle-Gro for the hippocampus. Following exercise (and the release of BDNF), animals learned to run mazes better. Conversely, blocking BDNF after exercise inhibited development of the hippocampus, and therefore stifled improvements in learning ability.

How “intense” must the exercise be? If you’re under 20 years old, it should raise your heart rate into the range of 145 to 190 beats per minute. If you play a strenuous sport (like lacrosse, soccer, football or hockey), you probably achieve this during practices and games. But you can also get there by jumping rope, running or interval training—any activity that keeps your heart rate up for 20 minutes.

You can use this to your advantage right now. In Naperville, Ill., students who participated in an exercise program before school, then attended their most difficult class, reported that the class seemed easier and their test scores improved. That’s because exercise also improves the ability to focus. A school in Finland went farther, scheduling exercise sessions between classes. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that its students are among the best and brightest in the world.

Bottom line: as an athlete, you’re already ahead of the game. But you can add to your advantage by enjoying physical activities apart from your sport for at least 20 minutes three times a week.

Staying active will keep your body (and brain) in top shape during your off-season. It will grow your hippocampus, the one organ in your body where size matters; and you’ll focus and learn better as a result.

I haven’t exercised at all. How do I get started?

Start by walking thirty minutes a day at a brisk pace. That will establish a base level of fitness for your muscles, heart and brain.

I hate exercising because my back always hurts. What should I do?

Poor posture is one of the culprits. Whenever possible, suck in your stomach and tighten your glutes at the same time. This tends to straighten your spine—and it helps you sculpt those washboard abs. Abdominal muscle strength protects your back.

What if I just hate exercise altogether?

You don’t need to do traditional exercises to get the mental benefits. Find something that feels like play, like Zumba or dancing—anything that gets your heart rate up. Find something vigorous you enjoy doing at least three times a week to build your heart, muscles and brain.

The article was written by By Dr. Mike Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz and I believe it has a great deal of merit. I have long been a proponent of interval training. There’s no special equipment needed and, done correctly, it should only take 20 minutes to really get your heart pumping. And you can turn just about anything into an interval workout. Just switch off between bursts of high-intensity and a short recovery period. Your body will thank you and so will your brain.

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About Rick Binder, CFT, CES

Rick Binder, CFT, CES is an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer in San Diego, CA. In addition he is an NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist, a Certified TRX Instructor and he holds a 3rd Degree Black Belt in Hapkido Blend. He has trained groups and individuals to improve their level of fitness and self confidence. For information, rates or to schedule training sessions you can reach him directly at 818-324-0462 or at