The brain-changing benefits of exercise | Wendy Suzuki

The brain-changing benefits of exercise | Wendy Suzuki

What if I told you there was something
that you can do right now that would have an immediate,
positive benefit for your brain including your mood and your focus? And what if I told you that same thing
could actually last a long time and protect your brain
from different conditions like depression,
Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Would you do it? Yes! I am talking about the powerful effects
of physical activity. Simply moving your body, has immediate, long-lasting
and protective benefits for your brain. And that can last
for the rest of your life. So what I want to do today
is tell you a story about how I used my deep
understanding of neuroscience, as a professor of neuroscience, to essentially do an experiment on myself in which I discovered
the science underlying why exercise
is the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today. Now, as a neuroscientist,
I know that our brains, that is the thing in our head right now, that is the most complex structure
known to humankind. But it’s one thing
to talk about the brain, and it’s another to see it. So here is a real preserved human brain. And it’s going to illustrate two key areas
that we are going to talk about today. The first is the prefrontal cortex,
right behind your forehead, critical for things like decision-making,
focus, attention and your personality. The second key area is located
in the temporal lobe, shown right here. You have two temporal lobes in your brain,
the right and the left, and deep in the temporal lobe
is a key structure critical for your ability to form and retain new long-term
memories for facts and events. And that structure
is called the hippocampus. So I’ve always been fascinated
with the hippocampus. How could it be that an event
that lasts just a moment, say, your first kiss, or the moment your first child was born, can form a memory
that has changed your brain, that lasts an entire lifetime? That’s what I want to understand. I wanted to start and record
the activity of individual brain cells in the hippocampus as subjects were forming new memories. And essentially try and decode how
those brief bursts of electrical activity, which is how neurons
communicate with each other, how those brief bursts either allowed us
to form a new memory, or did not. But a few years ago,
I did something very unusual in science. As a full professor of neural science, I decided to completely switch
my research program. Because I encountered something
that was so amazing, with the potential to change so many lives that I had to study it. I discovered and I experienced
the brain-changing effects of exercise. And I did it in a completely
inadvertent way. I was actually at the height
of all the memory work that I was doing — data was pouring in, I was becoming known in my field
for all of this memory work. And it should have been going great.
It was, scientifically. But when I stuck my head
out of my lab door, I noticed something. I had no social life. I spent too much time
listening to those brain cells in a dark room, by myself. (Laughter) I didn’t move my body at all. I had gained 25 pounds. And actually, it took me
many years to realize it, I was actually miserable. And I shouldn’t be miserable. And I went on a river-rafting trip —
by myself, because I had no social life. And I came back — (Laughter) thinking, “Oh, my God,
I was the weakest person on that trip.” And I came back with a mission. I said, “I’m never going to feel
like the weakest person on a river-rafting trip again.” And that’s what made me go to the gym. And I focused my type-A personality on going to all the exercise
classes at the gym. I tried everything. I went to kickbox,
dance, yoga, step class, and at first it was really hard. But what I noticed is that after every
sweat-inducing workout that I tried, I had this great mood boost
and this great energy boost. And that’s what kept me
going back to the gym. Well, I started feeling stronger. I started feeling better,
I even lost that 25 pounds. And now, fast-forward a year and a half
into this regular exercise program and I noticed something that really
made me sit up and take notice. I was sitting at my desk,
writing a research grant, and a thought went through my mind that had never gone
through my mind before. And that thought was, “Gee, grant-writing is going well today.” And all the scientists — (Laughter) yeah, all the scientists
always laugh when I say that, because grant-writing never goes well. It is so hard; you’re always
pulling your hair out, trying to come up with that
million-dollar-winning idea. But I realized that
the grant-writing was going well, because I was able
to focus and maintain my attention for longer than I had before. And my long-term memory —
what I was studying in my own lab — seemed to be better in me. And that’s when I put it together. Maybe all that exercise
that I had included and added to my life was changing my brain. Maybe I did an experiment on myself
without even knowing it. So as a curious neuroscientist, I went to the literature to see
what I could find about what we knew about the effects
of exercise on the brain. And what I found was an exciting
and a growing literature that was essentially showing everything
that I noticed in myself. Better mood, better energy,
better memory, better attention. And the more I learned, the more I realized
how powerful exercise was. Which eventually
led me to the big decision to completely shift my research focus. And so now, after several years
of really focusing on this question, I’ve come to the following conclusion: that exercise is
the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today for the following three reasons. Number one: it has
immediate effects on your brain. A single workout that you do will immediately increase
levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin
and noradrenaline. That is going to increase your mood
right after that workout, exactly what I was feeling. My lab showed that a single workout can improve your ability
to shift and focus attention, and that focus improvement
will last for at least two hours. And finally, studies have shown that a single workout
will improve your reaction times which basically means that you are going to be faster
at catching that cup of Starbucks that falls off the counter, which is very, very important. (Laughter) But these immediate effects are transient,
they help you right after. What you have to do is do what I did, that is change your exercise regime,
increase your cardiorespiratory function, to get the long-lasting effects. And these effects are long-lasting because exercise actually
changes the brain’s anatomy, physiology and function. Let’s start with my favorite
brain area, the hippocampus. The hippocampus — or exercise actually
produces brand new brain cells, new brain cells in the hippocampus,
that actually increase its volume, as well as improve
your long-term memory, OK? And that including in you and me. Number two: the most common finding
in neuroscience studies, looking at effects of long-term exercise, is improved attention function
dependent on your prefrontal cortex. You not only get
better focus and attention, but the volume of the hippocampus
increases as well. And finally, you not only get
immediate effects of mood with exercise but those last for a long time. So you get long-lasting increases
in those good mood neurotransmitters. But really, the most transformative thing
that exercise will do is its protective effects on your brain. Here you can think
about the brain like a muscle. The more you’re working out, the bigger and stronger your hippocampus
and prefrontal cortex gets. Why is that important? Because the prefrontal cortex
and the hippocampus are the two areas that are most
susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases and normal cognitive decline in aging. So with increased exercise
over your lifetime, you’re not going to cure
dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, but what you’re going to do
is you’re going to create the strongest, biggest hippocampus
and prefrontal cortex so it takes longer for these diseases
to actually have an effect. You can think of exercise, therefore, as a supercharged 401K for your brain, OK? And it’s even better, because it’s free. So this is the point in the talk
where everybody says, “That sounds so interesting, Wendy, but I really will only
want to know one thing. And that is, just tell me
the minimum amount of exercise I need to get all these changes.” (Laughter) And so I’m going to tell you
the answer to that question. First, good news: you don’t have to become
a triathlete to get these effects. The rule of thumb is you want to get
three to four times a week exercise minimum 30 minutes an exercise session, and you want to get aerobic exercise in. That is, get your heart rate up. And the good news is,
you don’t have to go to the gym to get a very expensive gym membership. Add an extra walk around the block
in your power walk. You see stairs — take stairs. And power-vacuuming can be as good
as the aerobics class that you were going to take at the gym. So I’ve gone from memory pioneer to exercise explorer. From going into the innermost
workings of the brain, to trying to understand how exercise
can improve our brain function, and my goal in my lab right now is to go beyond that rule of thumb
that I just gave you — three to four times a week, 30 minutes. I want to understand
the optimum exercise prescription for you, at your age,
at your fitness level, for your genetic background, to maximize the effects of exercise today and also to improve your brain
and protect your brain the best for the rest of your life. But it’s one thing to talk about exercise,
and it’s another to do it. So I’m going to invoke my power
as a certified exercise instructor, to ask you all to stand up. (Laughter) We’re going to do
just one minute of exercise. It’s call-and-response,
just do what I do, say what I say, and make sure you don’t punch
your neighbor, OK? Music! (Upbeat music) Five, six, seven, eight,
it’s right, left, right, left. And I say, I am strong now. Let’s hear you. Audience: I am strong now. Wendy Suzuki: Ladies,
I am Wonder Woman-strong. Let’s hear you! Audience: I am Wonder Woman-strong. WS: New move — uppercut, right and left. I am inspired now. You say it! Audience: I am inspired now. WS: Last move — pull it down,
right and left, right and left. I say, I am on fire now! You say it. Audience: I am on fire now. WS: And done! OK, good job! (Applause) Thank you. I want to leave you with one last thought. And that is, bringing
exercise in your life will not only give you
a happier, more protective life today, but it will protect your brain
from incurable diseases. And in this way it will change
the trajectory of your life for the better. Thank you very much. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “The brain-changing benefits of exercise | Wendy Suzuki

  1. Awesome stuff – I train 6/7 days and can attest to this talk – some of the people I surf with are in their late 50s and early 60s – music / instrument playing and physical training can lead to a happy and โ€œfullโ€ life … move like Jagger ๐ŸŽต


  3. People 100 years ago: do normal life, get normal exercise, don't think about it.
    People today: drive cars even 200 meters, wonder why they're fat and lazy and sad.

  4. Thatโ€™s crazy cuz I just started working out and itโ€™s so freaking hard . Iโ€™m pushing myself. I noticed last night that me pushing myself to continue through the pain was really fucking with my head. I was like damn my brain is working out too. ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿพ your brains like stop please !!!! Then youโ€™re like noooo weโ€™re finishing ๐Ÿฅต๐Ÿฅต๐Ÿฅต๐Ÿฅต I can see how it improves brain strength and focus . Not even gonna lie since Iโ€™ve been working out I have been thinking clearer and even planning better. Things I usually give up on mentally that give me a headache I push through.

  5. This is all well and good but for those of us who do actual work for a living, that is manual labor.. And still have depression, not really helpful or inspiring.

  6. I now tell myself that exercise classes are non-negotiable and I work everything else around them. No excuses. I call it my Prozac๐Ÿคช

  7. Only drink 16oz of (spring) water an hour and just take sips, don't chug it down, drinking too much water too fast flushes out electrolytes. drink 128 oz of water a day, that's 8 cups.

    humans don't naturally have to do this, we were born to get our hydration out of fruits and only have some sips of water if we found the clean stuff in the wild. but today since we're so dehydrated we can't get enough out of the fruits we eat. until we clean out our bodies and really live with an optimal diet, then we'll get the Real benefits of fruit, and won't have to drink so much water. search up loren lockman on youtube for more info, #notaspon

  8. โ€œI AM A WONDERFUL WOMAN!โ€ Aha aha!!!๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜‡๐Ÿ˜โค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธ๐Ÿ˜˜

  9. She is a Japanese .Japan is the loneliest country in the world. OMG . How about the brain changing effects of mmmm positively interacting with other people. That is more important.

  10. Iโ€™m jumping on the treadmill this morning!! Now I understand the scientific reasons why I must add cardio (more constantly) to my weekly workout routine. Thanks!!

  11. Wuuuuaaaauuuu que bellezaaaaaaaaa absolutely beautiful girl mmmmmmmmmmm mamitaaaaaaaaa que divinaaaaaaa you are a really turn on babe ๐Ÿ˜ฒ๐Ÿ˜ฒ๐Ÿ˜ฒ๐Ÿ˜ฒ๐Ÿ˜ฒ๐Ÿ˜ฒ๐Ÿ˜ฒ๐Ÿ˜ฒ๐Ÿ˜ฒ๐Ÿ˜ฒ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜โคโคโคโคโค๐Ÿ‘„๐Ÿ‘„๐Ÿ‘„๐Ÿ‘„๐Ÿ‘„๐Ÿ‘„๐Ÿ’‹๐Ÿ’‹๐Ÿ’‹๐Ÿ’‹๐Ÿ’˜๐Ÿ’˜๐Ÿ’˜๐Ÿ’˜๐Ÿ’˜๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

  12. youtube's recommended seems to want me to be better… sleep more, how to quit addiction, exercise. idk, it feels like they're watching me and showing me I can be better.

  13. I love fast walking ,it's the only "exercise" worth practicing for me

  14. I have noticed though that after working out the same way for a period of time, not only that the body gets used to it, the brain does, too. So unless you know how to change workout periodically, it will not have as much as an effect as you expect.

  15. She should have asked me, as I knew this ages ago and I suspect thousands of people have observed the correlation of exercise and brain function!
    But thanks for the more deep brain research, thank you very much, very good talk ineed.

  16. I believe it is a mistake to refer to that image as a preserved human brain. The base of the brain which is in the palm of the person's left hand is where the spinal cord and brain itself continues down as a one complete thing down through the spinal cord, and nerve pathways.

    The human brain looks a little bit more like an octopus with its legs hanging down & in one long braid. The base of the brain that's cut off in this picture is where breathing is regulated, automatic blinking of your eyes and beating of your heart, and the center of that which controls your ability to walk and move and know where you are in space.

    Too much emphasis is on the outer, frontal parts of the brain where intelligence is assumed to be located.

  17. The only person I have ever heard argue against exercise is Donald Trump ๐Ÿคฃ. (i am not joking)

    In their revelatory book "Trump Revealed," the Washington Post's Mike Kranisch and Marc Fisher wrote more extensively about Trump's "battery" theory of energy:

    After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted.
    Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted.
    So he didn't work out.
    When he learned that John O'Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, "You are going to die young because of this."

    And then there was this from a 2015 New York Times magazine profile of Trump:
    Trump said he was not following any special diet or exercise regimen for the campaign. '''All my friends who work out all the time, they're going for knee replacements, hip replacements โ€” they're a disaster,'' he said. He exerts himself fully by standing in front of an audience for an hour, as he just did. 'That's exercise.'"

  18. Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the man who invented the term aerobics, said all this stuff in the mid-to-late 1990s over 25 years ago. The benefits of aerobic exercise on the brain and body were very well documented at the Cooper Clinic.

  19. I grew up playing ice hockey, played until about I was in my early 20s, then after college when I was in my mid 20s, I got really into running and weigh lifting. now I run anywhere between 9-12 miles a week, and lift about 3 nights a week. I will admit it, I have a predisposition to feelings of sadness and melancholy, and exercise always has, and always will be my self therapy. I feel great and have tons of energy, and I don't take any psychoactive medications. It says in the bible g-d created man with wisdom, when you get really physically fit, you begin to understand what that means.

  20. She is awesome!! So much personality too. I loooove this talk! As a gym rat I cannot imagine my life without exercising, I think I'd fall into the deepest and darkest depression if I tried living without exercising even for just a week!

  21. I liked her talk but disagree with the ending. Rather than just move around, why not train? Exercise like she demonstrated makes you feel good right now, training does that while purposely producing continuous incremental gains. My advice: Lift heavy weights using a barbell. Add a little to the bar each time you lift. You'll get the same gains in mood and memory, while at the same time getting stronger,ย  improving balance, and strengthening your bones. As a result you'll be more useful, less likely to fall, and harder to break if you do. Leverage the enthusiasm gained from Wendy's talk and put it to practice following "The Barbell Prescription" by Dr. J. Sullivan.

  22. I started working out when I was 18, right after high school and Iโ€™m now 58. Not only do I feel great but I pretty much have the same body I had in high school.

  23. Not surprised… If we look back to our hunter gatherers ancestors , it becomes obvious that we as humans, are meant to be on the move rather than eating sandwiches in front of our office computers. The consequences are of course a huge bad health epidemic. All my friends (including elderly) who exercise are by far healthier and happy.

  24. I've heard that if you get treated for depression, the first thing they tell you is "quit smoking and start working out."

  25. I started the gym September 1st 2018, a year and a month in and it has been the best decision of my life. I went from obese to finally fit and feeling good about myself, having a buddy to start the gym with help tremendously as well. My gym buddy motivated me and I motivated him, a year later and I invite new friends to the gym, and also motivate them to stay in shape. People seem to treat you differently as well from obese to fit, itโ€™s like youโ€™re an entirely different person.

  26. ุฃุดูƒุฑูƒู… ุนู„ู‰ ุงู„ุชุฑุฌู…ุฉ ุฅู„ู‰ ุงู„ุนุฑุจูŠุฉ

  27. I decided I like to workout daily yet when depression comes, I can't even take any workout and get out my bed and depression wins and fail me to work out. any idea for that?

  28. Hey guys, does anyone know how to contact wendy? Iโ€™m working on this topic in my graduation project and I really really need to contact her.

  29. Loved your talk and how you made it easy to understand. Re your desire to "optimize" your applications to better serve, please keep in mind people like myself, in wheelchairs. Carol 11-2019.

  30. I literally have gym mats on my side of the bed and an E-Z curl bar at my feet, plates under my bed. My partner enjoys watching me train while we watch movies at night. haha. Exercise and fresh food got me off psych meds, back into the workforce, and into a career of health and community services.

  31. I always tell ppl that excercise does this. Diet goes hand in hand but anything helps. I feel good immediately after excercise. Even if I'm depressed and anxious I will excercise. Because afterward I feel great. I use it as depression medicine.

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    ุณู€ู€ู…ู€ู€ุนู€ู€ุช๐Ÿงโ€โ™‚๏ธ ูƒู€ุซู€ูŠู€ุฑ ู…ู€ู€ู† ุงู„ู€ู€ุดู€ู€ุจู€ู€ุงุจ ูŠู€ู€ุจู€ู€ุญู€ู€ุซู€ู€ูˆู† ุนู€ู† ุทู€ู€ุฑูŠู€ู€ู‚ู€ู€ุฉ ูู€ู€ุนู€ู€ุงู„ู€ู€ุฉโœ… ู„ู€ุชู€ูƒู€ุจู€ูŠู€ุฑ ุงู„ู€ู€ู‚ู€ู€ุถู€ู€ูŠู€ู€ุจ
    ูˆุฃู†ู€ุง ุฃุจู€ุดู€ุฑูƒู€ู…๐Ÿ˜‰ ุฃู†ู€ูŠ ุญู€ุตู€ู„ู€ุช ุนู€ู„ู€ู‰ ุงู„ู€ุทู€ุฑูŠู€ู‚ู€ุฉ ุงู„ุฃุตู€ู€ุญ๐Ÿ‘ ูˆุงู„ู€ู…ู€ู†ู€ุงุณู€ุจู€ุฉ๐Ÿ‘ ูˆู‡ู€ู€ุชู€ู€ุดู€ู€ูƒู€ู€ุฑู†ู€ู€ูŠ ุจู€ู€ุนู€ู€ุฏูŠู€ู€ู‡ู€ู€ุง
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  33. When the doctor said you have dementia & depression, I couldn't accept the later. For almost 2-3 years I was home disconnected from family & all social life. Then my wife suggested we go to the gym and that changed my life. Now I exercise for 1 hour, 4 days a week and feel active at 67.

  34. Hey just recall back how the stone age human being survives during the stone age.
    That's why God create legs to walk and run, and hand to do some work and balance our body during our run.

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