Wednesday musings, 2/24/16

There is a brain building block receiving quite a bit of attention right now called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is discussed thoroughly in John Ratey’s book “Spark.” On a very basic level, BDNF improves brain health at the cellular level by improving neuron function and growth. It is believed to help with cognitive function and creativity.* BDNF is released in large amounts when the heart rate is elevated for long periods of times (at least in rats), causing researchers to speculate cardiovascular activity is important to our brain health.

Interestingly, (at least to me), BDNF is released in a different part of the brain during exercise in more complex environments, improving memory and learning. This is akin to road running versus trail running. Anyone that has ever become adept at running on the road only to be surprised how much extra focus it takes to run down single track can attest to the fact trail running adds an extra level of mental complexity (and, often, physical too). If you stay on the safety of the roads and/or gym equipment, but are intrigued by the possibilities the trails hold, start with short treks inn areas that are just a little bit different than what you are used to. Instead of repeating the great barefoot running debacle of 2009, build into exercising in more complex environments slowly, so your tissues and your mind can adapt to the extra focus required. Adapt gradually, and over time you might begin to enjoy the mental and physical benefits the trails (or beaches, or rocks), have to offer. 

*For a more thorough exploration of this topic, check out this article:®+True+Nature™+News&utm_campaign=20860d3ebc-February+Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5e4dca9b1e-20860d3ebc-411450001&mc_cid=20860d3ebc&mc_eid=b12202cd44