The amazing thing about exercise is that it not only benefits your body but also the way your brain functions. With exercise, you stimulate chemical changes that enhance learning, mood and thinking—amongst other things.
In a new study, researchers found a link between exercise and enhanced neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to rewire the neural connections as we go through life, whether that be in response to certain experiences, building memories, learning new skills or adapting to new environments. In this way, it is seen as critical to the development of a healthy brain from infancy all the way through to adulthood.
If you want to give your neuroplasticity a boost, researchers at the University of South Australia suggest you take part in one of the following two exercises: 20 minutes of high-intensity training or 25 minutes of continuous moderate aerobic exercise.
The researchers used transcranial magnetic stimulation to measure changes in the subjects’ neuroplasticity before and after taking part in a number of different exercises. By the end of the study, they found high-intensity training and aerobic exercise to be the most effective fitness programs when it comes to improving neuroplasticity.
The researchers also gathered some useful insights into the activity of the stress hormone cortisol during the different exercises. This appears to be a major factor in how mentally beneficial a particular exercise is, as high levels can block neuroplastic responses. The researchers found that mixing up the tempo through high-intensity interval training seemed to allow cortisol levels to return to normal, healthy levels.