There is an overall consensus that exercise not only heightens the function of the brain but also fundamentally alters its operational structure. Evidently, there have been countless studies on the benefits of distance running, however, until recently there has been little research-focus on it’s comparative advantages to workouts such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and weight training.
Earlier this month the Journal of Physiology gathered a large group of male rats, injecting them with a solution that marks the creation of new brain cells and then set the groups into a wide array of different workouts – with one sedentary control group.
Over the span of seven weeks, with continuous microscopic brain examination issued on each animal, the rats were assigned set exercises: running wheels in their cages (most jogging moderately every day for several miles), resistance training (climbing walls with small weights attached to their tails) and the final group took up the equivalent of HIIT (treadmills that required them to sprint for 3 minutes, followed by 2 minutes of slow skittering).
Overall, the study found different levels of neurogenesis, depending on how each animal exercised.
The rats that jogged on the wheels showed robust levels of neurogenesis. The greater the distance that a runner covered during the experiment, the more new cells its brain now contained.
Far fewer new neutrons were found in the brains of the HIIT group. While they demonstrated higher levels than the sedentary control group, the level of neurogenesis was significantly lower than distance runners.
While the weight training group was much strong by the end of the experiment, they showed no discernible augmentation of neurogenesis – in fact, when analyzing the brain it looked as though the animals had not exercised at all.
Rats are not people. We know this. However, Miriam Nokia, the research fellow who led this study, holds that the implications of these findings are very provocative, stating, “sustained aerobic exercise might be the most beneficial for brain health also in humans.”
It is important to note that these results do not imply that running is the only activity that prompts neurogenesis, but that weight lifting and HIIT probably lead to different types of changes, elsewhere in the brain. For example, they might encourage the creation of new connections between brain cels and the new blood vessels.
While this study ought to encourage everyone to introduce or add more running into their workout routine, it should not discourage those from doing weigh training or high-intensity work outs as well. As always, take a holistic approach to your workout routine, your body and mind will thank you.
To find the study: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/JP271552/abstract