I finally purchased a camcorder that works with my iMac. Expect in the near future, videos on exercise, balance training, etc. All I need to do is figure out how to upload and make a movie out of the data that I have.

I have blogged in the past about the beneficial effects of exercise on brain health. There are several new studies indicating that exercise does indeed promote mental functioning and preventing cognitive decline. I can attest to the effect exercise has on my mental well-being; improved clarity, a sense of well-being, and an emotional ‘uplift’. Mentally, I just feel better, period.

A recent study in Ireland found that young men (non-athletes) scored significantly better on a rapid-fire recall of photos after en intense exercise session than they did prior. A non-exercise control group showed no such increase. In addition, the exercise group had a significant increase in a protein known as brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) whereas the men in the non-exercise group showed no such increase. Scientists have known about BDNF but are unsure its exact role in brain function. This study, along with others, point to an increase in memory and recall.

In several studies using rats, such as the one done at the University of California-Los Angeles, results of exercise, whether forced or optional, resulted in an increased level of BDNF molecules, compared to sedentary rats. In addition, a new population of BDNF precursor molecules that will eventually develop into BDNF molecules, was found.

Perhaps the most inspiring and motivating studies using humans is a study at Stanford University School of Medicine involving aging human pilots. In this experiment, published last month in the journal Translational Psychiatry, 144 experienced pilots were asked to operate a cockpit simulator three times over the course of two years. For all pilots, performance declined with age (as in all of us- for instance, most of my geriatric clients tell me that they cannot drive an automobile as well as they get older. Many give up driving altogether). In this study with pilots, blood was drawn to determine the levels of BDNF. In the men with low levels of BDNF, the rate of cognitive decline was double that of the men with higher levels. Although not exercise study, the question raised was “does strenuous exercise slow such declines in by increasing levels of BDNF, thereby salvaging our ability to perform tasks such as driving, well beyond our middle age. (A good article to read is that of Gretchen Reynolds in The New York Times, 11/30/11).

So far, all signs indicate that exercise is good for your brain.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.