Physical Exercise and Brain

The brain, like muscles, can be atrophied when is not trained. Physical exercise is antidepressant, anxiolytic and releases endorphins producing elevates self-esteem, well-being, positive thoughts and is a poly-pill that prevents many diseases. The physical exercise produces the liberation of the factor of growth similar to the circulating insulin in blood, that enters the brain to contribute in the production of new neurons in the hippocampus, necessary for the new memories. Most of the circulating IGF is of hepatic origin and according to some studies, in the event of lack of physical activity, they die within 21 days.

When muscles are exercised with moderate intensity, they produce irisin, a brain protection factor. It improves memory and, increasing oxygenation of the brain tissue, produces greater mental agility, better balance. We have no doubt that it is the best anti-ageing pill. This is the deleterious effect of sedentarism on people’s intelligence. And the preventive effect against mental deterioration. Brain stimulation and its maintenance in humans would be achieved through different stimulating experiences: learning new things, studying, writing, establishing human relationships, emotional balance, sustained mental activity… We know the mechanisms through which exercise has a direct chemical action on the proliferation and survival of new neurons.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) studies have reported changes in the blood flow of the toothed gyrus when exercising. The latest research has indicated that moderate regular exercise may improve the immune system. Various mechanisms contribute to this, such as the increase in the number and functionality of NK cells (lymphocytes, natural killers), and the number of dendritic cells, the fundamental axis of our defenses or the anti-inflammatory effects of regular exercise. The NK (Natural Killer) cell is a lymphocyte, and a component of the innate immune system for the defense of the organism. It intervenes in the destruction of already infected cells and cancer cells, as well as regulating immune responses. This shows how exercise prevents and cures.

There is also evidence of the relevant role played by serotonin and learning and the exercise of memory. During exercise and afterwards serotonin is produced, as well as in a good diet of our intestinal flora that also produce it. Birds before their migratory movements segregate serotonin that impels them to form a group and start the route. The antidepressants can increase the volume of the hippocampus that diminishes in the depressions sustained in the time. Depression has to do with inflammation of the hippocampus.

Due to atrophy damages produced by sedentary life, routine, impoverished environment, so predominant, so promoted, and contrary to the thought and cultivation of the mind. A report has been presented in Spain by the Centre for Sports Studies of the Rey Juan Carlos University which concludes that physical inactivity is responsible for 13% of deaths. It takes up to 52,000 lives.

Important to mention, is the huge amount of money that we spend on traffic dead but we do almost nothing for this problem. Some say that we will not be able to pay pensions in the future and we deny that we will not be able to deal with the expenses that obesity will cause either. Before we die, we spend millions on the treatment of diseases that cause this life without exercise. According to projections, 80% of men will be obese in ten years and we will spend three billion on keeping them alive.

The role of vitamin D

The daily exercise improves the pulmonary function, the transporter efficiency of the oxygen in the red blood cells, protects against all types of cancers. If we want to prevent vascular diseases and keep the heart in good condition, let’s prescribe physical exercise, Mediterranean diet and sun without skin protection in the first hour of the morning or the last hour of the afternoon, also in the same way in children. Is recommended ten minutes of sunbathing and if we can’t, we have to test our blood to check the level of vitamin D.

If we do not have the right level of it, in the first year of life, during pregnancy or lactation, or from 45, the body will activate the parathyroid glands that extract calcium from our bones and babies will result in poor bone formation, (osteomalacia) and in adult’s osteoporosis, related to their lack with inflammatory diseases. It acts on the immune system and on the proper functioning of our brain. The vitamin-hormone D we will get from fish, egg yolk, dairy products and in no case from vegetable drinks that, in a pointless way, have been imposed as substitutes for an essential food such as whole milk that we need for its contribution of calcium without which vitamin D will not serve alone.  The daily physical exercise of impact and moderate force is a bone generator and activates the endocrine function of the muscles that, among other substances, release irisin as anti-aging, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetes.

We are not shocked by the gradual death that so many thousands of people that try to die because of this mentality of denying and not perceiving the damage that we are doing ourselves with sedentarism, bad food or to our own planet, to our language with the trivial use of English, to our culture and our history, to our social health and to everything that fragments the cohesion that is so important at this moment.

*This article is part of my next book “The brain we have. With which we will not go very far”.


José Antonio Rodríguez Piedrabuena 
Specialist in Psychiatry and Psychoanalysis. Specialist in management training, group and couple therapies.