In a study from the University of Otago, scientists found 6 minutes of high-intensity exercise could extend the lifespan of a healthy brain and delay the onset of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
They found that a short but intense bout of cycling increases the production of a specialized protein that is essential for brain formation, learning and memory, and could protect the brain from age-related cognitive decline.
This insight on exercise is part of the drive to develop accessible, equitable and affordable non-pharmacological approaches that anyone can adopt to promote healthy aging.
The specialized protein named brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) promotes neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to form new connections and pathways) and the survival of neurons.
Previous studies have shown that increasing the availability of BDNF encourages the formation and storage of memories, enhances learning and overall boosts cognitive performance.
In the study, the team tested 12 physically active participants (six males, six females aged between 18 and 56 years) took part in the study.
They compared the following factors to study the isolated and interactive effects:
Fasting for 20 hours; Light exercise (90-minute low-intensity cycling); High-intensity exercise (a six-minute bout of vigorous cycling); and Combined fasting and exercise.
They found that a brief but vigorous exercise was the most efficient way to increase BDNF compared to one day of fasting with or without a lengthy session of light exercise.
The team says the cause for these differences is not yet known, and more research is needed to understand the mechanisms involved.
One hypothesis is related to the cerebral substrate switch and glucose metabolism, the brain’s primary fuel source.
Further research is underway to delve deeper into the effects of calorie restriction and exercise to distinguish the influence on BDNF and the cognitive benefits.
If you care about Alzheimer’s disease, please read studies about daytime napping strongly linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and how to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about alternative drug strategy against Alzheimer’s disease, and coconut oil may help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease.
The study was conducted by Travis Gibbons et al and published in The Journal of Physiology.
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