There has been a long running belief that your body never produces new brain cells. This has been disproved. The brain does create new brain cells. There was a study done recently with mice to see how exercise impacted memory. The research was conducted by Fred Gage of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif.
Gage and his colleagues allowed a group of old mice and a group of young mice to exercise on a running wheel as much as they wanted. The mice ran about 2 miles every day. The researchers also kept a third group of older mice that didn’t exercise. After a month of the regular exercise, the team subjected the mice to a memory test.
The researchers taught the mice to find a platform submerged in a pool of water. After the mice had learned the location of the platform, they had to find it even when it was hidden in cloudy water.
The Salk team found that the old mice that had worked out on the wheel performed as well as the young mice: The elderly mice remembered the location of the platform and swam quickly to the spot without much trouble.
In contrast, the older mice that didn’t get the daily workouts flunked: These mice, much like older people who are starting to show declines in memory, had trouble remembering the location of the platform. In most cases, the mice swam aimlessly in the pool and never found the platform or found it by chance, Gage says.
(from USA Today Sept 21, 2005)
If exercise has the same impact on humans it would suggest that you can increase the quantity of new brain cells in your brain in a way that will improve your memory. Exercise has many other benefits as well. It can help relieve stress, extend your life span, increase your ability to concentrate, and help you rest better.
Most people say that they don’t exercise because they don’t have time. If exercise makes you more effective, it is possible that they don’t have time because they don’t exercise. Success comes from deliberately investing in yourself. Exercise is one of those investments where the benefits in terms of making you productive are greater than the cost in time.
Originally published on November 8, 2005.