A Workout Brain-Boost In A Pill? Maybe...

rexusa_755601aPhoto: Martin Poole/REX USA.
Let's face it: Good intentions aside, it's easier to hit the snooze than get out of bed and hit the pavement. So, whether it's figuring out how to sculpt your body or finally learning how to carve out "me" time, the folks at YouBeauty have us excited to get sweating and stay on track.
Advertisement
That post-work out feeling of accomplishment and stress-free bliss is not the only neurological gift exercise imparts. Researchers know that exercise — especially of the endurance variety — boosts our overall brain health and function, including improving learning and memory and slowing cognitive decline in old age. How exercise promotes these mental perks, however, remains poorly understood.
In pursuit of a formula for exercise’s elixir, neuroscientists and cell biologists from Harvard Medical School and the University of Michigan Medical Center decided to focus on one suspect protein, FNDC5, which is secreted from muscles during exercise. To see what the protein does, they monitored exercise-loving mice that spent most of their time running on a wheel for 30 days. When the mice began producing FNDC5, it kicked off the rise of another protein, BDNF, in the brain. BDNF helps to form new connections between nerves in the brain, which is essential for learning and memory.
With that knowledge in hand, they created an FNDC5 injection and administered it to mice that had not been working out. It traveled through their bloodstream, and a week later, the researchers found, levels of the brain-boosting BDNF protein had significantly increased in the mice’s brains, despite their sedentary lifestyle.
“What is exciting is that a natural substance can be given in the bloodstream that can mimic some of the effects of endurance exercise on the brain,” Bruce Spiegelman, Ph.D., a senior author of a November 2013 paper published on the findings, said in a press release.
While the results are promising, we’re likely years away from being able to pop exercise pills to keep our minds sharp. The team still needs to investigate whether the increased BDNF actually made the mice any smarter, for example, and further details on the finding’s biochemical mechanics need to be smoothed out — not to mention the lengthy process required to turn a laboratory finding into a bonafide drug. Still, the team concludes, “the therapeutic implications of this are obvious.”
In the meantime, you can get your brain benefits the old fashioned way: with some good, solid sweat sessions. We’re feeling stronger and smarter already.
Advertisement

More from Fitness

If you ask us, no workout is complete without a killer playlist — and running is no exception. Whether you prefer the trails or the treadmill, the right ...
We may not all be able to keep up a daily diet of personal training, SoulCycle, and hot yoga. But there's a lot more to learn from celebrities' workout ...
Update: This story was previously published on Nov 21, 2015. Are you sitting down? Okay, take a minute to assess: Are you slouching in your seat? Are your...
When it comes to rock climbing, an all-or-nothing approach is key
Ah, the plank. Some version of it is used in virtually every type of fitness program, from CrossFit to calisthenics to yoga to pilates, and for good reason...
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that fitness trackers aren't exactly the key to a super-healthy ...
Maybe you're someone who appreciates the sturdiness of genuine leather. Perhaps you can't stand the idea of going to an hour-long vinyasa class without ...
(Paid Content) Normally, we celebrate getting into a fitness groove. It means that we've committed — on a pretty regular basis — to laying out workout ...
Hailey Langland is a 16-year-old snowboarding star who believes that if you're not having fun doing something, it's not worth doing. "What sets me ...
People either love it or hate it, but one thing we can all agree on is that CrossFit can get intense. You're doing burpees and throwing around barbells, ...
We count on our gym bags to do a lot for us. We'd like them to be lightweight, but we also expect them to hold all of our gear. We love it when they're ...
Once you've picked out your class and go-to mat, your challenge is to somehow choose a pair of pants to wear for yoga. Of course, you want them to be ...
It's hard to overstate how important it is to be comfortable during your workouts — especially when it comes to your breasts. But those of us who're ...
This year's Triathlon World Series was the scene of an extraordinary demonstration of brotherly love. Yesterday, Olympic medalist Alistair Brownlee stopped...