Fitness for the brain: training with neuroprotective effects

More and more, we in the Zohodnik editorial board are finding the link between physical activity and brain and nervous system health in scientific sources. This text will talk about when exercise increases levels of BDNF, an important protein for the brain.

BDNF protein increases with VIT

There is a protein called Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This protein is involved in the most important processes affecting brain function, e.g. it is necessary for the development, differentiation and preservation of nerve cells.

BDNF is also involved in signal transduction, i.e. intercellular communication. Reduced levels of this protein are often found in patients with cognitive disorders (such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases).

Accordingly, we can assume that sufficient levels of BDNF are important for the health of the brain and nervous system.

A number of recent studies show an increase in BDNF levels during aerobic exercise, depending on its intensity. Its highest serum levels have been observed during VITT (high-intensity interval training).

BDNF and strength training

Researchers also wanted to find out the effects of weight training on BDNF.

Eleven men and five women participated in the cross-sectional study. One group trained with iron using a strength training protocol (5×5 with 180-second rest intervals), while the second group used a weight training protocol (3×10 with 60-second rest intervals).

Researchers measured serum lactate and BDNF levels immediately after the training session and 30 minutes after. They found a significantly greater rise in BDNF after the mass protocol (when the pauses between exercises are shorter), as well as a positive relationship between lactate and BDNF levels.

These results were consistent with those previously obtained in other studies: lactate levels and exercise intensity correlated with an increase in BDNF.

According to the researchers, short rest intervals in muscle development training result in increased blood flow and increased BDNF release (as compared to strength training regimens, where blood flow rates return to resting state during prolonged rest).

Practical conclusions

Those who are keen on strength training should add lactate-boosting exercises to their programme (both for extra hypertrophy and for the neuroprotective effect). This is usually achieved by increasing training volume and shortening rest intervals.

The greatest metabolic stress can be induced by using drop sets or traditional bodybuilding techniques such as Vince Gironda’s 8×8 and a shortened version of GOT (German Volume Training).

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