Run to boost your brain
Training for a marathon could work out your brain as much as your body. In fact, new research suggests serious runners might wind up smarter, with a better memory and quicker learning ability.
These conclusions were drawn when it was found that the same process that fuels the body is responsible for memory and learning.
Muscle and brain energy is controlled by a single protein named estrogen-related receptor gamma (ERRγ).
"This is all about getting energy where it's needed to 'the power plants' in the body," explained researcher leader Ronald Evans of Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory.
"The heart and muscles need a surge of energy to carry out exercise and neurons need a surge of energy to form new memories."
The presence of ERRγ in the brain was already known, but originally scientists weren't sure why it was active there. That's because the brain burns sugar and ERRγ was previously shown to burn fat.
After closer inspection, research showed that ERRγ activates metabolic genes in brain cells, but here relates to sugar rather than fat.
"We assumed that ERRγ did the same thing throughout the body," Evans continued.
"But we learned that it's different in the brain."
So it seems the protein turns on fat-burning in the muscles and sugar-burning in the brain.
So if you're feeling stressed about an upcoming exam or work project, exercise could well be the key. Not only is it a brilliant stress-buster, but who knows - you might even perform better in that test or presentation.