HITT, CrossFit, Spin, P90X, Barre – these are just a few of the recent trends that have emerged in the fitness industry. While some of you opt for a fast paced, high intensity, short interval workout, others love an long distance jog or bike ride, while others prefer a low-key, stress-reducing yoga sesh. Each type of workout has its own benefits for different body parts and help you reach specific physical goals, however, do you know which type of workout is best for your brain health?
According to a new remarkable study where scientists compared the neurological impacts of different types of exercise including running, weight training and high intensity interval training, some workouts are more effective at bulking up the brain than others.
Past studies have shown us that exercise changes not only the structure, but also the function of the brain, and that in general, physical activity increases brain volume and reduces the number and size of holes in the brain’s white and gray matter. It also creates new brain cells with each workout, doubling and even tripling the number of new neurons that appear in the hippocampus, a key area of the brain for memory and learning. However, most of these past studies have focused only on distance running, as they are mostly performed with lab rodents.
So the most recent study, published last month in the Journal of Physiology, was conducted focusing on three different workouts and one sedentary control group. The first group of adult rats were given running wheels in their cages so they would run at will, which most opted to do every day for several miles, jogging at a moderate speed. The second group began resistance training, in this case, attaching tiny weights to the rats’ tails as they climbed a wall. And the third group began the lab rat equivalent of a high-intensity interval training workout, sprinting at fast paces for 3 minutes, followed by 2 minutes of slow walking.
After seven weeks of study, the brain tissue was examined and the results were clear. The rodents that had jogged moderately for longer distances showed the highest levels of neurogenesis, overflowing with new neurons, compared to the other two workout groups and the sedentary control group. Those who had completed the weight training, while much stronger, showed no sign of any brain cell growth. And those who had completed the high-intensity interval workouts, showed far less neuron growth than the long distance runners, possibly, as the researchers stated, because the high intensity workout caused a large amount of stress on the body, which has been proven to decrease the growth of new neurons in the brain.
So should you drop the weights and high-intensity workouts? Not necessarily, as these types of workouts could possibly encourage the growth of new blood vessels or connections in the brain, but you might want to think about adding in the occasional bike ride or jog to bulk up your brain as well as your body. If you’re like us, though, extended periods of cardio are not necessarily our favorite past time – need some motivation? New workout gear can spark your fitspiration. Check out our Give Performance Leggings made from our softest fabric yet, feeling like a second skin, and perfect for a jog or bike ride. Pair with our Change Muscle Tee and Azteca Sports Bra to provide a total of 40 meals to a severely malnourished child in need.