Posts Tagged ‘exercise versus antidepressants’

What does exercise do to your brain? Specifically how can exercise improve your mood, your memory and your ability to process information aka your ability to think (cognate)?

Dr. Walter W. van den Broek, MD, PhD, (aka Dr. Shock), a Dutch Psychiatrist, has a website that answers these and many other questions about neuroscience for laypeople.  Read his blog post below to learn more about the effects of exercise on your brain.

Neuroscience of Exercise by Dr. Shock, MD

The Benefits of Exercise

  • In children, college students and young adults, exercise or physical activity improves learning and intelligence scores
  • Moreover, exercise in childhood increases the resilience of the brain in later life resulting in a cognitive reserve
  • The decline of memory, cortex and hippocampus atrophy in aging humans can be attenuated by exercise
  • Physical activity improves memory and cognition
  • Exercise protects against brain damage caused by stroke
  • Exercise promotes recovery after brain injury
  • Exercise can be an antidepressant

The brain needs certain ingredients to flourish or to life up to the expectations of every day problems. The brain has priority when it comes to certain ingredients. A variety of foods can be beneficial for learning. Positive effects on brain function have been reported for fish oil, teas, fruits, folate, spices, cocoa, chocolate and vitamins.

How does exercise improve the brain?

  • With exercise the number of neurons increase in the hippocampus, a brain structure important to memory and learning.
  • Also synaptic plasticity increases in a certain part of the hippocampus due to exercise: the dentate gyrus.
  • Spine density increases in certain parts of the hippocampus.
  • Exercise also increases and improves the small blood vessels throughout the brain.
  • Exercise can change the function of neurotransmitters and can activate the monoamine system.

And from Henriette van Praag, from Trends in Neuroscience:

Recent research indicates that the effects of exercise on the brain can be enhanced by concurrent consumption of natural products such as omega fatty acids or plant polyphenols. The potential synergy between diet and exercise could involve common cellular pathways important for neurogenesis, cell survival, synaptic plasticity and vascular function. Optimal maintenance of brain health might depend on exercise and intake of natural products.


van Praag, H. (2009). Exercise and the brain: something to chew on Trends in Neurosciences, 32 (5), 283-290 DOI. Read more here: 10.1016/j.tins.2008.12.007

Read D. Shock’s full article at his website here.

And for those that want to know more about exercise effects on your brain as you age, read more on Exercise, Experience and the Aging Brain at this abtract  here.

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