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Fitness for Body, Mind and Spirit

GreenNote Life

Fitness for the body, mind & spirit

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Your brain on high-intensity interval exercise...

We’ve heard the great health benefits for the body by doing high-intensity interval training or HIIT. Now let’s learn about the benefits for the brain by doing a high-intensity training session. Studies were conducted by researchers from the University of Texas and published in the journal Neuroscience Letters. Another study was published in the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills. Additionally a third study was published in the journal of Cell Metabolism that suggests this type of exercise could reverse the cellular signs of aging. Before we cut to the meat of the studies, let’s review what high-intensity training looks like. It can be defined as a type of training that involves repeated bouts of high intensity effort followed by varied recovery times. We looked at an example of such a training in the GNF Newsletter, "Save time at the gym with this one-minute workout…” . On to the studies… They found that high-intensity exercise, especially with intervals, benefited not just the body but the brain as well. Study: Acute high-intensity exercise-induced cognitive enhancement and brain-derived neurotrophic factor in young, healthy adults. What they looked at:

  • The effects of high-intensity exercise on a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in healthy young adults. BDNF is involved in cognitive functions such as learning and memory and also in brain-cell survival and repair and mood regulation. Low levels of BDNF have been associated with depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

What they found:

  • A session of high-intensity exercise was linked to both higher BDNF levels and cognitive functioning improvements.

Study: Influence of acute high-intensity aerobic interval exercise bout on selective attention and short-term memory tasks. What they looked at:

  • A group of middle-aged subjects conducted mental tests before and after a high-intensity session.

What they found:

  • Like the young participants in the previous study, their cognitive function also improved. The key thing to point out is that there was no improvement after a session of low-intensity active stretching.

Those are just examples of two studies conducted showing the benefits to the brain after high-intensity interval training. This next study concluded that this type of exercise goes beyond the typical health improvements that are associated with normal exercise. Study: Enhanced Protein Translation Underlies Improved Metabolic and Physical Adaptations to Different Exercise Training Modes in Young and Old Humans. What they looked at:

  • The possibility of reversing the cellular signs of aging. As we age our mitochondria (the powerhouses of the cell) stop functioning as well as they used to, leading to declines in energy level and exercise capacity

  • A group of 18-30 year-olds and a group of 65-80 year-olds were measured on the impact of three routines: high-intensity interval exercise; strength training; and a combined lower-intensity strength/cardiovascular program. The impact they were looking at were cell function, cardiovascular fitness, insulin sensitivity, and muscle mass.

What they found:

  • The subjects doing the interval training showed improvements in circulation, heart function, and lung health. “However, while the younger HIIT group experienced a 49 percent increase in mitochondrial capacity - a marker of the cell’s ability to produce energy - high intensity exercise was the only routine that boosted mitochondrial function in the older group, by an incredible 69 percent. (The older group of high-intensity exercisers also showed an improvement in insulin sensitivity, a marker of diabetes risk.)"

So we now know that high-intensity interval training benefits both body and brain. What if you don’t like a high-intensity exercise? Can you still reap the benefits? According to kinesiology professor at McMaster University, Martin Gibala, you could give 80 or 90 percent effort, just as long as you vary the intensity from a steady-state, you still get a benefit. Stay tuned for next week’s newsletter where we will look at some examples of high-intensity exercise that you can incorporate into your training. To your journey, Lisa Schaffer GreenNote Fitness P.S. Check out my Facebook page for inspiration. P.P.S. Discover GreenNote Fitness recommendations for recovery, supplements, protein bars & powders, nutrition, equipment, books and more. **Do you have a friend that would benefit from this information? Please forward it to them!**

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