Doing just six minutes of vigorous, intense exercise a day can be one of the most effective ways to maintain brain health into old age.
New research has found that short bouts of exercise increase levels of a brain protein known to improve cognitive health, according to the New Atlas website, citing the journal Physiology.
The new research focused on studying a specific protein called BDNF, which is brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is an important molecule involved in the growth, function and survival of brain cells. It has also been shown to improve memory and slow the progression of neurodegenerative disease.
For his part, the lead researcher in the study, Travis Gibbons, said that the protein “BDNF has shown great promise in animal models, but pharmaceutical interventions have so far failed to safely harness the protective power of BDNF in humans,” noting that methods have been studied, which are likely to help in Preserving brain capacity, which humans can use to increase BDNF naturally to help enjoy healthy aging.”
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Fasting and exercise
The aim of the study was to understand how fasting and exercise affect the body’s production of the BDNF protein.
So, participants had dozens of healthy volunteers test their BDNF responses to four different interventions: fasting for 20 hours, low-intensity cycling for 90 minutes, high-intensity cycling for six minutes, or a combination of fasting and low-intensity exercise.
The results revealed that a short bout of intense exercise leads to a significant increase in levels of circulating BDNF compared to all other tested interventions. But perhaps most interestingly, a short series of high-intensity exercises was more effective at boosting BDNF levels than a longer, low-intensity session.
6 minutes only
The researchers said that “six minutes of high-intensity cycling sessions increased each measure of circulating BDNF by 4 to 5 times more than long, low-intensity sessions; an increase in plasma-derived BDNF protein production was associated, regardless of feeding or fasting,” explaining that “ Compared to a single day of fasting with or without prolonged light exercise, high-intensity exercise was a more effective way to increase circulating BDNF.”
solve the puzzle
Given the already existing body of evidence showing that exercise improves cognition and is associated with higher levels of the brain-healthy protein BDNF, the new findings represent a new addition to solving the mystery of how best to preserve the aging brain.
Gibbons said he and his research team are currently studying “how fasting for longer periods, for example up to three days, affects the production of BDNF protein,” adding that there is a curiosity about whether strenuous exercise at the beginning of the fast accelerates the beneficial effects of fasting, as it is Fasting and exercise have rarely been studied together.