When it comes to keeping our brains healthy, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the best way to keep it in tip-top condition is to consistently solve puzzles such as crosswords or maths equations. But who really likes solving algebra equations?
So what if we were to tell you that researchers at the University of South Australia, Adelaide have found there could be a new way that can keep you fit in the process? If you’re anything like us, you’d be interested.
According to researcher Dr. Ashleigh Smith and her PhD student Maddison Mellow, the brain can actually be subject to a high change in neuroplasticity with “20 minutes of interval training or 25 minutes of continuous moderate aerobic exercise.”
Neuroplasticity refers to the “brain’s ability to rewire or modify its neural connections” and is vital to the brain’s development, such as learning new skills and holding on to memories.
To conduct the experiment, a group of 128 participants was asked to complete a single bout of exercise either on an exercise bike or a treadmill. Some participants were asked to carry out a low-intensity exercise by either running or cycling at a continuous speed, while the others had to undergo high-intensity interval training wherein the heart rate is raised for short periods.
Dr. Smith said, “cycling or running at full speed without mixing up the tempo may elevate the stress hormone, cortisol, blocking the positive effects.”
She adds that “cortisol appeared to play a major role in whether an exercise was mentally beneficial.”
“High levels can block neuroplastic responses, whereas interval training may allow a sweet spot for cortisol rate to return to normal levels.”
She goes on to say that the brain needs to essentially act like some dough or a rubber band. “The brain has many neural pathways that can replicate another’s function so that if the brain is damaged it can re-route signals along a different pathway.”
“The more elastic the brain, the easier this is.”
Mellow added, “Long-term studies demonstrate that people who engage in regular exercise show greater neural connectivity than those who are sedentary. Research also shows that exercising before learning a new motor skill can help a person learn it much faster.”
So if you’re finding yourself unable to remember the name of someone you met just last week, or you’ve realised that learning new skills is no longer as simple as riding a bike, dust off your running shoes, hop on a treadmill and give your whole body, brain included, a workout.