Research clearly shows that exercise boosts the brain.
For years now, we have known that exercise protects against memory disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease. (And people who exercise regularly are 50% less likely to develop dementia.) Dogs who regularly exercise would also be at a lower risk for canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome, a doggie version of dementia.
Exercise also makes you and your dog smarter, with better focus and concentration, and helps your dog learn.
But how does that happen?
Exercise creates new brain cells and increases a growth factor called BDNF, brain derived neurotrophic factor.
This growth factor, BDNF, is a protein that leads directly to brain cells connecting to one another as well as strengthening cells and axons.These connections, called synapses, between cells become more dense. BDNF stimulated connections are an important factor in learning and creating long term memories.
Overall, BDNF makes neurons healthier and is important for the efficient transmission of signals in the brain, making the brain work better.
In the "old" days, neuroscientist believed that the brain was not capable of creating new brain cells. Recent research, however, has now proven that new brain cells are born throughout one’s life. Surprisingly, this process is triggered by exercise!
These new cells are created in the hippocampus, which is the memory center in the brain. (The hippocampus also is involved in mood and imagination.)
Animal models show, however, that these new brain cells will die within a few days if they are not used to learn something new.
This is where balance training comes in. Balance is a learned behavior. Learning the complex movements involved in balance training helps make those brand new brain cells stick around and become permanent! Even without new brain cells to establish, balance training is a great activity to spark the neuromuscular system to work harder.
Balance is essentially a crossword puzzle for the brain and body to figure out.
So, in addition to boosting neurotransmitters like dopamine to make you feel good, exercise boosts the brain and helps your dog be smarter!