This section of an article in Dr. Mercola’s newsletter is very encouraging to me, as I often think about the death of my brain cells. I know that MS and aging are threatening to combine forces to rob me of my cognitive abilities. A little lapse here, a forgotten name there….if exercise will help my body to make new neurons to replace the old worn-out ones (or the ones damaged by the demyelination of MS) then exercise is what I have to do.
Here’s the article by Dr. Joseph Mercola:
“Exercise Also Stimulates the Growth of New Brain Cells
You’ve probably already heard that exercise is good for your brain function too. In fact, it increases production of brand new brain cells, a process known as neurogenesis. More brain cells can lead to improved thinking and processing of information.
The question was largely: how?
Recent studies, published in the journals Cell and PloS One are now bringing us closer to the answer.
Part of the answer involves the adult stem cells, which your brain is full of.
Adult stem cells have the capacity to divide into new stem cells or new neurons as needed, but certain factors can slow them down, such as bone-morphogenetic protein, or BMP.
“The more active BMP and its various signals are in your brain, the more inactive your stem cells become and the less neurogenesis you undergo,” the New York Times explains. “Your brain grows slower, less nimble, older.”
Exercise reduces the impact of BMP, so that your adult stem cells can continue performing their vital functions of keeping your brain agile.
Remarkably, mice with access to running wheels reduced the BMP in their brains by HALF in just one week. In addition, these mice also showed “a notable increase in Noggin, a beautifully named brain protein that acts as a BMP antagonist,” the New York Times writes.
It appears that the less BMP activity you have in your brain, the more beneficial Noggin is produced as well.
The New York Times quotes Dr. Kessler, author of several of the recent studies on this topic:
“If ever exercise enthusiasts wanted a rationale for what they’re doing, this should be it. Exercise, through a complex interplay with Noggin and BMP, helps to ensure that neuronal stem cells stay lively and new brain cells are born.”
I add this in here to emphasize, again, that exercise is not just about losing weight and bulking up. It’s about far more than just looking good – it can also help your brain function, and that’s surely something we all want to hold onto!
This is also important to remember when it comes to school age children, and as I discussed in a recent article, physical education programs can have a dramatic impact on school performance.”