Until recently traditional medicine emphasised that the brain is essentially a static organ from a neurological point of view. The majority of physicians believe that it is impossible for this organ to create new cells or to recover from an injury. However, modern science has shed an entirely new light on this observation. It is now known that certain situations can actually cause the brain to adapt and improve. It may also be surprising to learn that regular exercise is one of the best ways to induce this form of mental “plasticity”. Not only will this enhance basic cognitive functions, but many studies have shown that long-term effects can even exhibit an influence on future generations. However, this can still be a rather difficult subject to grasp. What exactly is “plasticity”? How can exercise contribute to this condition? Why do chiropractors always recommend remaining fit and active?
An Amazing Level of Cellular Flexibility
In terms of the human brain, plasticity essentially refers to the ability of cells to circumvent specific pathways that have become damaged or otherwise blocked over time. This concept is somewhat similar to a river finding a different path to reach the ocean if its normal path has been blocked or destroyed for whatever reason. Not only does this allow the brain to function as it normally would, but research also suggests that the transmission speeds between the cells themselves can become faster. This is why individuals who may have already been diagnosed with degenerative disorders such as dementia can benefit from plasticity. There are a few reasons for such seemingly superhuman regenerative capabilities. Exercise produces a host of beneficial neurotransmitters as well as the human growth hormone (HGH). These cause neurons within the brain to become more active while stimulating the regeneration of synaptic pathways. Furthermore, increased levels of oxygen promote alertness, healing and overall mental acuity. It does therefore appear that there are numerous advantages associated with regular exercise.
What Types of Exercise Will Provide the Greatest Benefits?
What specific routines can be performed in order to maximise the benefits mentioned above? Many studies have found that aerobic exercise (such as walking, running or swimming) will produce incredible amounts of neurological activity. Working the legs is particularly powerful. It has likewise been found that qualities such as improved memory and better problem solving skills have been linked to aerobic activities. However, weight training is another viable alternative. Senior citizens who regularly partake in specific resistance exercises are less likely to suffer pronounced levels of cognitive decline over time. It is also important to mention that both of the routines mentioned above will inevitably lead to lower levels of sadness, anxiety and depression. Individuals who suffer from mental and emotional problems are therefore likely to benefit from increased levels of aerobic activity. However, it is crucial to mention that science is only now beginning to scratch the surface in regards to the regenerative powers of the mind. It will be very interesting indeed to discover what other regenerative powers may be associated with exercise-induced neuroplasticity in the future.