The physical benefits of exercise and proper nutrition are often obvious; less body fat, more muscle, increased performance, etc. However, improvements in the mental and psychological aspects of an individual’s life often occur in conjunction with these physical changes. Researchers have begun to investigate how these changes occur. A key protein that has been implicated is called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF for short.
BDNF increases after exercise. These increases have been shown to improve memory performance, and regular exercise actually prevented memory loss in mice. Circulating BDNF concentrations in humans has been associated with metabolic syndrome, are lower in
schizophrenic patients, and may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments.
While the research is still developing, early results suggest that the amount of BDNF released into circulation after a single training session is increased after long term resistance and aerobic training. So don’t stop working out if you have a final exam to study for, or a big project for work – go out and move! You will be more productive for it! You can thank science for giving you an excuse, and showing that meatheads and endurance junkies may be smarter than they appear.