1) Metaphysical Exercise:
So for 2,500+ years, athletes, folk-scientists, bro-scientists, and real scientists have extolled the virtues of exercise.
Even Dr. Mike showed that 30 minutes a day helped -Everything-.
But a bizarre subculture of cardio-focused exercisers called “Runners”, have always claimed odd mental benefits along with the physical ones.
Things like Zen/Meditation, a type of Buzz, & greater Clarity of Thought afterward.
So science decided to investigate these old wives’ tales, and may have discovered evidence instead of myth…
2) Buzz. -The Art Of Racing In The Pain:
So basically anything written on topics other than the pain of running talks about mental clarity & the high.
And the way it’s discussed makes it seems like something more than just circulation, exertion, or exhaustion.
It might even be different than the body switching over from carbohydrates to fat as a fuel.
-Which as any Atkins-dieter on MCTs can tell you, really screws your whole brain around.
3) Where Is My Head? Science Calls Their Bluff:
So in a legacy of many experiments, researchers decided to try to find out the truth.
-But not in the bodies, but the brains of runners.
Because short of Olympic sprinters, they are some of the most hardcore athletes out there, and as such would be a strong barometer for any tests on cardio.
-And let’s face-it, less awkward than professional race-walkers who are far too sassy.
And even in the most basic correlation-statistics like the ones cited by Dr. Mike, the rate of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia is 50% lower for people who do regular cardio.
4) Science Loses, Because Cardio Is Marijuana For The Soul:
In 2015, a team from the University of Heidelberg found that the old idea of endogenous-morphines, or “endorphins”, creating the high was probably wrong.
But what they did find it’s more an influx of something else.
Yup, our body’s natural pot-chemicals were all over the place after some great cardio.
It isn’t just an urban legend, it’s the whole-body equivalent of smoking a joint!
Those magical chemicals do everything from lowering inflammation, to reducing pain, to possibly even removing Alzheimer’s junk from your brain.
5) Hold-On There Wavy-Gravy, The Drugs Get Smarter:
But as different researchers pressed-on, they found something MUCH more interesting.
Contrary to the folk-wisdom that it’s impossible,
Cardiovascular exercise makes you grow new brain-cells!
Not only that, strangely-enough, the rats that ran sprouted new cells not in some odd place like the center that specializes in sniffing margarine.
Nope, the cell-growth was concentrated particularly in the area that connects both halves of the brain and also controls Memory!
And in the final cherry-on-the-sundae, yet another team tied both together, showing that cannabinoids, Even Endo-Cannabinoids, promote new brain-cell growth.
6) I Don’t Run. So, Can Other Exercise Make Me Smarter? -Erm,…:
Just out of curiosity, people who don’t do a lot of cardio might wonder if there is any brain-benefit for them.
Well, a team from Finland set out to answer that question.
And the unfortunate answer for power-lifting meat-heads is: No.
In 3 tests of running-type cardio, high-intensity sprinting-type cardio, and also weight-lifting type resistance training,
They found when they checked the brains of the test animals the chemical markers showed plenty of new brain-cells.
But none for the resistance-trainers.
Only some for the High-Intensity-Interval-Trainers,
And MUCH more for the Runners.
Oh well, at least you got those swole-gains, yo!
7) But There’s A Catch! -Use It Or Lose It:
One interesting footer that both researcher Karen Postal, and cognitive-pioneer Elizabeth Gould found in their own individual ways:
You have to get into a new environment or situation that is somewhat unknown to make the changes last.
Because Karen’s writing discusses how the cells seem to stick around only if they’re used for some kind of extra work.
And of-course Elizabeth is one of the only researchers to say that you could ever grow new brain-cells,
According to her, you actually CAN, just by putting yourself in novel environments and facing unknown challenges.
8) One Last Benefit. Clearer-Heads Prevail!:
In separate experiments by researchers at Harvard and in China that reinforce the idea of “clearing out the cobwebs”,
Human test-subjects this time were put into scanners, and also given a mood-stabilization test.
In both cases, 30 minutes of cardio exercise increased:
I) Their function in both the regulatory/planning/decision-making centers,
And II) Their ability to recover quickly from something sad,
III) The enhanced planning-abilities were especially present in those who did those 30 minutes regularly.
9) Conclusion: Very Superstitious?:
So cardio really does improve your brain function.
It’s not superstition after-all.
And it’s not just your blood circulating more, like the effects of the smart-drug Ginkgo.
You may actually be smarter and healthier right down at the physical brain-cell level!
And your brain may actually be getting cleaned-out by anti-inflammatory compounds similar to THC!
10) PS: You Don’t Necessarily Have To Run:
For a lot of this, we used the example of Runners because that’s what the researchers tested.
Though runners get the best results, these effects should be similar for most people who do cardio exercise.
Especially if it’s at-least 30 minutes, and probably much more-so if you work up a good sweat and start to feel a little “Runner’s High”-like buzz of your own.
Check out the details in the Links:
Photo Credits: “Digit”, by Douglas M. Weston, II
• Source: Karen Postal
• via: The Science of Us
• Source Studies:
1) A runner’s high depends on cannabinoid receptors in mice
2) Neurogenesis and Exercise: Past and Future Directions
3) Cannabinoids promote embryonic and adult hippocampus neurogenesis and produce anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects
4) Physical exercise increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis in male rats provided it is aerobic and sustained
5) Acute aerobic exercise helps overcome emotion regulation deficits
6) Acute Aerobic Exercise Increases Cortical Activity during Working Memory: A Functional MRI Study in Female College Students
7) Wired to run: exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling in humans and cursorial mammals with implications for the runner’s high