I’m no longer the spring chicken I was. I’m approaching 40, and I want to maintain a healthy brain as well as healthy body. Turns out according to this article in Psychology Today that I’m on the right path, because Physical Activity is the No.1 way to keep your brain young. This article explains the link between aerobic fitness and cognitive function. Christopher Bergland the author of the article goes further stating that maintenance of close knit social bonds are second only to exercise in terms of maintaining longevity and psychological well-being.
Great news for martial artists
This is great news for martial artists practicing in quality clubs and gyms. Not only are they getting the benefits of exercise on cognition but also the psychological well-being of close knit bonds with their martial arts classmates. Provided of course you’re training at the right kind of club or gym.
The benefits of finding the right club
This highlights the benefits of finding the right club where not only you receive great instruction but also the support, help guidance and camaraderie of your classmates. I’ve been lucky throughout my martial arts journey and when creating my company StudyMartialArts.Org to meet and learn from the right kind of people. At present I’m based in Beijing and loving the training and the community at Big King BJJ and Muay Thai (insert shameless plug).
So what about the science?
Well according to Richard A. Friedman’s article in New York Times.
“Intriguingly, exercise in humans and animals increases the level of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, in the blood and brain. BDNF promotes the growth and formation of new neurons, and it may be responsible, in part, for a remarkable effect of exercise on the brain: an increase in size of the hippocampus that is linked with improved memory.
Conversely, adverse experiences like major depression can lower BDNF levels and are associated with hippocampal shrinkage, a phenomenon that helps explain some of the cognitive impairments that are a hallmark of depression. Aside from making people feel better, antidepressants can block the depression-induced drop in BDNF, so these drugs are, in a sense, neuroprotective.”
This helps to explain the double whammy benefits of physical training with the right kind of people. Whether your martial arts training involves BJJ, Kung Fu, Karate, Boxing, or MMA etc a large part of that will be focused on individual students physically learning a new skills, as well as ways to move, or being tasked with problem solving, through martial arts puzzles of the body, distance, technique or timing. I.e. Controlled sparing or combat sports competition. All that being said this article doesn’t even touch on the other psychological benefits of martial arts that cover increased self confidence and general mental health.
If you’d like to read more about training your mind and body check out Christopher Bergland’s book The Athlete’s Way: Training Your Mind and Body to Experience the Joy of Exercise.