MOVEMENT AND NUTRITION FOR THE BRAIN
I still can’t believe how overlooked it is. When we talk about health and fitness, there’s an organ that we affect in a profound way. Yet it barely gets a mention.
To bring this organ to our attention, let’s consider this quote from Professor Daniel Wolpert
“We have brains for one reason and one reason only, to produce adaptable and complex movement”
Now, I want to talk about a part of the brain that deserves our attention. It is responsible for learning, recalling and declaring information. It’s called the Hippocampus. More importantly, I want to talk about how movement and nutrition can enhance its function. Consider this. Hippocampal volume shrinks 1–2% annually in older adults without dementia. It’s been found that those with Alzheimers and Parkinsons have a smaller hippocampus, although this has been shown to be a relationship and causation has not yet been established.
Now that’s a frightening thought. Over a period of 10 or 20 years that’s a loss of 10 to 40%. In an extreme case that’s nearly half of it gone in 20 years. But, there are ways to mitigate this and even increase the size of your hippocampus.
In a study of 120 adults was carried out to assess the influence of aerobic exercise (read ‘cardio’) on the volume of the hippocampus. 60 were assigned to an aerobic exercise group, whilst 60 were assigned to a stretch control group.
What did they discover?
The group who followed a cardio routine had an increase of 2% to their hippocampus over the space of a year. The group who focused on stretching saw a decline of nearly 1.5%.
This is fascinating, as it shows 2 things:
- Exercise stimulates brain growth
- Inactivity maintains the decline of brain growth.
The study makes further investigations. How did both groups fare when their memories were tested prior to and after their intervention?
“We found that, in the aerobic exercise group, increased hippocampal volume was directly related to improvements in memory performance.”
Performing cardio just isn’t enough.
We need to move with more variety, in order to ensure that our brains are fully functioning. Indeed, that’s a key concept behind the variety of programs we create in the Brotherhood Training Club
This theory has recently found support in research carried out by Tracy and Ross Alloway. There were 2 control groups. One based in a classroom and one based in a Hatha Yoga group. The training group carried out the following types of exercise:
- Locomotive Awareness
- Balance Activities
- Strength Awareness
The result? A dramatic increase of 50% in working memory for those in the locomotive awareness group. Now we also need to consider Nutrition. For that, we want to talk about Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF is a protein that drives the growth of brain cells and has been shown to contribute to the growth of the hippocampus. It follows, therefore that in order for you to gain those improvements of cognitive ability you’re after, you must seek to increase the demand and production of BDNF and also stop eating food that leads to its decline.
Omega 3’s are a type of fatty acid found primarily in fish oils. An important component of Omega 3 fatty acids is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). It has been found that DHA increases levels of BDNF in the brain. Thus, given the fact that BDNF stimulates the growth of the hippocampus, it’s important that you seek to introduce Omega 3 fats, in particular DHA, to your diet.
Clearly, this would be of no benefit to you, if you are looking to improve your brain health and performance!
Carefully planned out, our nutrition can even impact our neuron connections. The food you eat can encourage neuroplasticity in the brain, making it easier to learn new movement patterns, new languages or new methods – and encouraging long-term brain health. Citocoline, Magnesium, Zinc, and even the botanical Rhodiola Rosea are among those nootropic ingredients studied for their neuroplasticity benefits.
There’s a lot of research here, and things can easily get overwhelming unless you have time for a PhD in Neuro Science. Thankfully, our friends at Motion Nutrition have packaged these key nutrients into their Neuro Motion range of two powerful brain-health nootropic supplements.
The conclusion here is simple. Move more and move with variety. Nourish your brain with the right nutrients. Your brain will thank you for it as you go about thriving in all of your pursuits.