We already knew that exercising your body also exercises your brain in ways that brain-teasers like Sudoku don’t, but a new study from the University of South Carolina finds that physical exercise literally strengthens the brain by creating new mitochondria (the power plants of your cells) in your brain — or at least that’s the case for mice.
Photo by Alexander Ischenko (Shutterstock)
The study, as reported by the New York Times, involved exercising one group of mice on a treadmill an hour a day, while leaving the others lazing about in their cages. The results:
When the scientists examined tissue samples from different portions of the exercised animals’ brains, they found markers of upwelling mitochondrial development in all of the tissues. Some parts of their brains showed more activity than others, but in each of the samples, the brain cells held newborn mitochondria.
There was no comparable activity in brain cells from the sedentary mice.
So what does that mean? Well, according to Professor J. Mark Davis:
“There is evidence” from other studies “that mitochondrial deficits in the brain may play a role in the development of neurodegenerative diseases”, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Having a larger reservoir of mitochondria in your brain cells could provide some buffer against those conditions.
It’s not as though you really need another reason to get out there and exercise, but if keeping your sexiest organ in shape provides some extra motivation, then so be it. Be like the treadmill mice.