Exercise is the most powerful activity lawyers can undertake to enhance brain function. A 2011 meta-analysis of 1,603 articles on the relationship between cognition and exercise found that exercise can prevent cognitive decline and heal cognitive impairment. Exercisers had larger hippocampus volumes (the structure where memories are processed and stored) and greater synaptic connections (the links between brain cells that are vital for thinking and memory).
Aerobic exercise, any activity that increases your heart rate, benefits the brain in three ways, it:
- Enhances blood and oxygen flow;
- Elevates and balances the levels of three important neurotransmitters (serotonin – mood, norepinephrine – attention and motivation, and dopamine – reward and satisfaction); and
- Stimulates the production of Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF), a protein that helps create and protect new brain cells in the hippocampus and support synapse formation.
A new study on mice suggests that aerobic exercise, in the form of voluntary wheel running, can cause older muscle cells to operate like younger cells, and to recover faster from injury. Exercise had a rejuvenating impact on old cells. In addition to preventing age-related diseases, exercise may also improve tissue function in humans. The effects lasted a week after the mice stopped running, indicating that regular exercise provides the anti-aging benefits.
Takeaway: Calendar time to get regular exercise for brain and anti-aging benefits.
Debra S. Austin, Killing Them Softly: Neuroscience Reveals How Brain Cells Die From Law School Stress and How Neural Self-Hacking Can Optimize Cognitive Performance, 59 Loy. L. Rev. 791, 828-34 (2013) https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2227155.
Debra S. Austin, Positive Legal Education: Flourishing Law Students and Thriving Law Schools, 77 Md. L. Rev. 649, 706-07 (2018) https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2928329.
Brett, J.O., Arjona, M., Ikeda, M. et al. Exercise rejuvenates quiescent skeletal muscle stem cells in old mice through restoration of Cyclin D1. Nat Metab 2, 307–317 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42255-020-0190-0
Ali Pattillo, One Type of Exercise Reverses Aging’s Effect on Stem Cells, Inverse, Apr 13, 2020, https://www-inverse-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/www.inverse.com/mind-body/exercise-can-rejuvenate-stem-cells/amp?usqp=mq331AQFKAGwASA%3D&_js_v=0.1#referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&_tf=From%20%251%24s&share=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.inverse.com%2Fmind-body%2Fexercise-can-rejuvenate-stem-cells%2Famp%23referrer%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.google.com%26amp_tf%3DFrom%2520%25251%2524s