15 Mar What is BDNF & why you need to know about it?
by Colleen Fisher Tully
Maintaining a nimble mind may be more about regular exercise than daily Sudoku. Here’s why:
About brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF):
Part of a family of proteins that build and maintain healthy neurons, BDNF is considered the most powerful of these proteins for learning and memory. Recently, studies have revealed that exercise helps your body produce more BDNF and build a healthier brain.
Unlike endorphins, the feel-good hormones released during and after exercise, BDNF proteins actually fuel cognitive growth—they’re even referred to as “Miracle-Gro for the brain” for their ability to stimulate new neural networks out of brain cells.
How BDNF works:
When brain nerve cell receptors bind to BDNF proteins, it tells these cells to repair and regenerate themselves, plus produce more BDNF for other nearby receptors. This perpetual motion of neural healing and growth supports a healthy brain well into advanced age.
Why it’s important for your health:
The link between higher levels of BDNF and a greater capacity for memory and learning is now well documented. Research also suggests high BDNF levels guard the brain against neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression and even obesity.
Conversely, lower levels of BDNF are associated with a smaller hippocampus and poor memory in adults of all ages, along with a range of other neurological problems, from accelerated aging to schizophrenia.
How to pump up your BDNF:
Exercise, coupled with short bursts of high-intensity training, has proven the best way to give your brain a dose of BDNF. Think of doing sprints while out for a run, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) a few times a week. However, if intense workouts are too stressful for you, even light exercise such as walking has proven beneficial over the long term—researchers say stress hormones caused from an overly difficult workouts could cancel the positive effects of BDNF. As with building any other muscle, regular exercise and consistent effort will keep both brain and body fit for life.