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Brain and Exercise: Exercise induces Mitochondrial biogenesis in the brain: Exercise gets our neurons fitter for life!

October 4, 2011
Exercise Training Increases Mitochondrial Biogenesis in the Brain.

Exercise Training Increases Mitochondrial Biogenesis in the Brain. Image: bigstockphoto

I was reading a great report from the New York Times about the latest of exercise and the brain and finally is here!!  A recent study from the University of South Carolina reveals how just two months of exercise can improve your brain especially getting your neurons super fit! The study that these phenomenal scientists put together consisted of  mice in two groups: half to run for an hour a day on little treadmills, while the other group were waiting in their cages without exercising. This great team  has shown how exercise can get our neurons more fit! Yes I have been preaching and standing by this for years and I am so grateful that this great team of scientists have finally proven it!

From Super Body, Super Brain book -End of chapter 2. Think of your billion neurons as a powerful basketball team. Each neuron is a player, and the neurotransmitters are the basketball they dribble across the court. However as you know basketball players cant be touching each other (like our neurons) and they need to be passing the ball to make new connections. I want to take it further who would you want in your head, a fit basketball team (neurons) or a local team that are unfit and that never practice and go to the local dive as part of the preparation? Exactly I want to be part of the first team as well!

Earlier studies have shown that exercise triggers neurogenesis, or the creation of entirely new brain cells. But the South Carolina scientists were not searching for neurogenesis. They were looking inside existing ones to see if exercise was the catalyst to get those cells into shape, similar to the way that exercise strengthens muscle and develops strength.

What do we know for sure? That our brain develops neuroplasticity a process that rewires the brain with the proper stimulation. Not only that, we know that exercise can create new neurons in specific sections of the brain such as the dentate gyrus from the hippocampus. Henrietta Van Praag showed it in a wonderful study with mice and Scott Small from Columbia University prove it for Humans, click here to see this wonderful study 

However these scientists from South Carolina were looking for something else, they were looking how fit these neurons could be with exercise.  In other words they were looking if “exercise” will promote a phenomena called “biogenesis” a process that looks if there is an increase in the number of mitochondria, a molecular sample  around a cell’s headquarters or nucleus that function as biological super powerhouses for energy  leading these structures to create the energy that fuels almost all cellular activity. The main principle is that The greater the mitochondrial density in a cell, the greater its vitality. They prove that exercise can help to achieve this phenomenal process called biogenesis.

Why is this important? Really simple, the more mitochondria (energy) the more fit these neurons will be and these tiny structures have been shown to protect from neurodegnerative diseases such as Parkinson or Alzheimer and even to protect from cognitive decline. But there are more great news: these structures also help our health and increase our quality of life,  increase longevity in animals and reduced risk for obesity, diabetes, diabetes type 2 and heart disease in people.

Brain cells are also fueled by mitochondria. However this process it is been researched in the muscle skeletal system not in the brain but until now, no one has known if a similar response to exercise occurs in the brain.

From New York Times article: Like muscles, many parts of the brain get a robust physiological workout during exercise. “The brain has to work hard to keep the muscles moving” and all of the bodily systems in sync, says J. Mark Davis, a professor of exercise science at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina to keep reading this report from the New York Times click here


When the scientists examined tissue samples from different portions of the exercised animals’ brains, they found markers of upwelling mitochondrial development in all of the tissues. Some parts of their brains showed more activity than others, but in each of the samples, the brain cells held newborn mitochondria.

If you want to read this study in detail click here or if you want to read the reporting of New York Times click here

try one of my Super Body, Super Brain exercises published in the best digital magazine: BODY SMART from Nomad Editions

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