Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is a protein, plays an important role in neuronal
survival and growth which is essential for learning and memory (Bathina S, Das UN, 2015).
Research suggests that physical exercise can affect BDNF levels both in the blood and the
brain, but how effective is exercise when compared with cognitive training, and mindfulness
That’s exactly what the following study investigated.
The participants were nineteen healthy older adults (Hakansson K, et.al., 2017).
They participated in 35-minute sessions of physical exercise, cognitive training, and mindfulness
practice in a crossover study.
The researchers showed that a single bout of physical exercise had a significantly larger impact on blood BDNF levels than either cognitive training or mindfulness practice in the same persons.
Exercise needs to be a part of a healthy lifestyle for several reasons, memory is one.
Håkansson K, Ledreux A, Daffner K, Terjestam Y, Bergman P, Carlsson R, Kivipelto M, Winblad B, Granholm AC, Mohammed AK. BDNF Responses in Healthy Older Persons to 35 Minutes of Physical Exercise, Cognitive Training, and Mindfulness: Associations with Working Memory Function. J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;55(2):645-657.
Exercise, in general, is beneficial for the brain, but is one type of exercise more beneficial for
memory? That’s what the following research investigated.
Sixty-four sedentary older adults either did high-intensity interval training, moderate continuous
training or stretching as a control (Kovacevic A, et.al., 2019).
The researchers found that high-intensity interval training resulted in the greatest
memory performance in inactive older adults compared to moderate continuous training
They also found that improvement in fitness correlated with improvement in memory
performance since moderate exercise also helped.
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is a protein plays an important role in the
survival and growth of the nervous system. This means that BDNF is important for keeping the
This research tested the effectiveness of two high-intensity exercise protocols, both known to
improve cardiovascular health, to determine whether they have similar efficacy in affecting
BDNF levels ( Saucedo Marquez CM , et.al., 2015).
Participants performed a continuous exercise protocol at 70% of maximal work rate and a
high-intensity interval training protocol at 90% of maximal work rate for periods of 1 minute
alternating with 1 min of rest (both protocols lasted 20 min).
Both protocols increased BDNF levels, but the high-intensity interval training improved
BDNF levels the most.
Kovacevic A, Fenesi B, Paolucci E, Heisz JJ. The effects of aerobic exercise intensity on memory in older adults. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2019 Oct 30. Saucedo Marquez CM, Vanaudenaerde B, Troosters T, Wenderoth N. High-intensity interval training evokes larger serum BDNF levels compared with intense continuous exercise. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2015 Dec 15;119(12):1363-73
How does a high fat, ketogenic diet affect your muscles?
How does a high fat, ketogenic diet affect your muscles?
There is a lot of promotion and talk about the benefits of restricting carbohydrate intake and eating a high fat, ketogenic diet.
When you read things like that, always ask, where is the evidence? Is there any science supporting the claims?
There is agreement on that more lean muscle mass and a lower body fat percentage are beneficial. This is true for everybody, but especially athletes.
Before you go on a high-fat diet, you want to know how a regime like that will affect your lean muscle mass.
The following research included 42 healthy individuals that followed a ketogenic diet for 6 weeks consisting of the same calorie intake as their regular diet (Urbain P, et.al., 2017).
They were tested for several things at the start of the study and after 6 weeks.
VO2peak and peak power decreased after the ketogenic diet.
The participants lost equal amounts of fat and fat-free mass, which means they lost some muscle mass.
Total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol increased significantly, LDL by 10.7% which is quite a lot, especially since LDL is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Glucose, insulin, and IGF-1 (a growth factor) dropped significantly by 3.0, 22.2 and 20.2%.
Another non-significant change was also seen.
Similar results were found when seventeen overweight or obese men were admitted to metabolic wards where they consumed a high-carbohydrate baseline diet for 4 weeks followed by 4 weeks of a ketogenic diet (Hall KD, et.al., 2016).
Body fat loss slowed during the ketogenic diet and coincided with increased protein utilization and loss of fat-free mass. These participants also lost muscle mass, and this study was done under very strict control.
Apparently a high-fat diet is not producing the amazing results some would want you to believe.
We know that sedentary behaviour is associated with impaired cognition and exercise can improve cognition.
This research is interesting because it added a component to the exercise (Wheeler MJ, et.al., 2019).
The participants were sedentary overweight/obese older adults with normal cognitive function. Cognitive testing were done and brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF) was assessed.
The study consisted of 3 different protocols which the participants completed with 6 days in between.
One time they were sitting uninterrupted for 8 hours which was the control condition. Another time they were sitting for 1 hour, then they did moderate-intensity walking for 30 minutes and uninterrupted sitting for 6.5 hours. The third protocol were sitting for 1 hour, then moderate-intensity walking for 30 min, and sitting interrupted every 30 min with 3 minutes of light-intensity walking for 6.5 hours.
The results showed that moderate-intensity walking for 30 min, and sitting interrupted every 30 min with 3 minutes of light-intensity walking improved blood levels of BDNF and working memory or executive function.
This means that we need to be active throughout the day. Just set reminders to take short breaks and do an activity that increases your pulse rate.
It does not mean that you have to get out and walk for 3 minutes. There are other things you can do for just a couple of minutes or less without going outside, so you have a very minimal interruption.
Adding one thing can sometimes give you more than one benefit.
This research was conducted to find out if dietary nitrate supplementation would improve exercise performance and cognitive function during a prolonged intermittent sprint test (Thompson C.,et.al., 2015).
16 male team-sport players received either 140 ml a day of beetroot juice high in nitrate or a placebo beetroot juice low in nitrate for 7 days.
Using a stationary bike they repeatedly performed several 6 seconds “all-out” sprints with 100 seconds active recovery and 20 seconds of rest, while simultaneously performing cognitive tasks. The test went on for two 40 minutes “halves” simulating team sports.
The beetroot juice high in nitrate improved sprint performance compared with the placebo juice and also improved reaction time of response to the cognitive tasks.
In another study when the participants exercised for 6 weeks and either drank beetroot juice or a placebo drink, the exercise and beetroot group had brain networks that more closely resembled those of younger adults (Petrie M, et.al., 2017).
When 450 ml beetroot juice was compared with a placebo drink cognitive performance was improved on a subtraction task 90 minutes later (Wightman EL, et.al., 2015). These results show that single doses of dietary nitrate can modulate the prefrontal cortex cerebral blood-flow response to task performance and potentially improve cognitive performance.
A lot of people don’t exercise because they think they have to spend a lot of time doing it every week, and that does not appeal to them. Let’s see what research has found.
Several years ago research was conducted on what was called high intensity short interval training. Since the start of that, a lot of research has been published on that topic, experimenting with different durations of exercise.
The original research started using a stationary bike doing 30 seconds intervals, peddling as hard as possible, then resting for up to 4 minutes. This was then repeated 4 to 6 times.
This regime was very effective documenting that just 2 minutes of actual exercise time produced the same results as an hour of regular intensity aerobic exercise.
So how little can you exercise and still improve your performance? Is 30 seconds interval as low as you can go?
The following research tested six sub elite triathletes comparing them with 6 endurance-trained sub elite athletes maintainingtheir normal training routine .(Jakeman J, et.al., 2012).
These athletes were already in good shape. It’s harder to improve the performance at that level, compared to starting with people out of shape.
6 of the participants did 10, 6 seconds sprints on a stationary bike with a resting period of 1 minute in between, 3 times a week for 2 weeks. The resistance on the bike was set to 7.5% of the body weight.
Two weeks of the high intensity short interval training resulted in a 10% decrease in a 10-km time trial.
The time taken to reach the onset of blood lactate accumulation, defined as the point where blood lactate reaches 4 mmol·L⁻¹) was significantly increased. This is another way of measuring improved aerobic fitness.
The actual exercise time was only 1 minute 3 times a week.
It is amazing, spending only 3 minutes a week for 2 weeks can improve aerobic performance.
If you want to improve cardiovascular fitness, but want to spend as little time as possible exercising, this is the way to do it.
You need a stationary bike to implement this protocol, but if you have that at home, you don’t necessarily even have to do the 10 sprints at one time. You can split them up throughout the day depending on what’s most convenient for you.
Other studies has documented that it is more beneficial to be active several times a day compared to exercising longer only once a day.
Lack of time is no longer a valid reason not to exercise. Most people would most likely have 3 minutes a week to spend on exercise considering the benefits.