How exercise changes the brain


When working with clients who have anxiety or depression I ask them to do some hard exercise at least once a day.

My reason for asking that is that I know that exercise improves mood. Several studies show that 30 minutes daily aerobic exercise was as – if not more – effective than anti-depressants in depressed patients. We also know that exercise fosters endorphin release – which counteracts anxiety.

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Neuroplasticity and the brain

Over the past few weeks I have asserted that our ever-faster rate of discoveries about the brain will transform assumptions about emotions, disease, free will, personal change, and how Bodymind really works.

Research into brain neuroplasticity is another example of that.

Neuroplasticity refers to the way in which the brain can renew itself and reprocess damaging experiences.

Renewal occurs through:

  • Cell growth
  • Cell replacement
  • The formation of new cellular connections
  • The formation of new neural networks
  • The creation of new cellular memories
  • The reversal of ageing

Relearning occurs through the absorption of new experiences that:

  • Change the way we remember things
  • Erase stress responses
  • Replace depression and anxiety patterns with a solution-focus
  • Increase endorphin release
  • Replace trauma with detached responses
  • Reverse burnout
  • Expand creativity
  • Interrupt addictive behavior
  • And many other changes besides

The old view of the brain is that it was like an attic which, over time, filled up with cobwebs, out-of-date toys, and unwanted junk. And then you went senile. The new view is that it is more like the interactions you have with a friend: the experiences you have together will change you both in unpredictable ways.

My namesake, Howard Eaton, has some great material, including podcasts, on neuroplasticity and its implications for health on this blog here.

There is also a great video on neuroplasticity on this link here.
Amongst other matters, it talks about how one woman overcame severe
‘mental illness’ (not my phrase but those psychiatrists love it!),
using meditation to reprogram her brain to grow new neural connections
which – in turn – interfered with her bad psychotic habits.

This article is by way of an introduction to a huge subject and I will be writing about the implications of neuroplasticity and emotional experience in later posts. But here is a thought for today.

If you try doing one thing you have never done before – each day – then you are going to:

  • Open up new cell networks
  • Learn a different way of being
  • Solder those new possibilities into Bodymind
  • Improve your memory
  • Stay young
  • Achieve liberation

What is your choice for today?

My own experience? Since breaking my right wrist two months ago I have learnt how to a) be left-handed, b) develop patience, c) slow down, d) – no, I won’t specify that one (but it was good)

Let me know of any enlightening experiences you have with this.