High or Low Intensity Exercise?
A new study published in the Journal of Brain Plasticity, in December 2019, reported for the first time that different intensity levels of running affect different areas of our brain functioning. Angelika Schmitt and her colleagues investigated the individual performance of twenty-five male athletes on incremental treadmills. On separate days, the athletes performed ‘low’ (35% below lactate threshold) and high (20% above lactate threshold) intensity exercise regimes for 30 minutes. The lactate threshold is a measurement which indicates the level of physical activity at which your body begins to fatigue, when lactate begins to accumulate in the blood faster than it can be removed. The researchers then measured the participants’ resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (Rs-fMRI) to see which areas of the brain connective network were triggered when the runners had to perform specific task or tests.
The team found that low-intensity exercise triggered areas of the brain associated with cognition control and focusing attention. And interestingly, high-intensity exercise activated networks involved with emotional processing. So, it may be that you need to channelize your mental energy on a larger task or project, then you should slow down the intensity of your cardio, and if you are feeling more emotional or reactive, then it may be time to increase and push yourself a bit more in your exercise. Regardless of the level of activity, after both exercise conditions, the participants revealed a significant increase in positive mood(1). So, sometimes it’s good to just move to elevate how you feel. Even if your body or mind may be telling you the opposite message.
So, if you have even twenty minutes a day to move, either fast or slow. You can help to trigger more than muscle function. You can get help to enhance your overall brain health, and if your rev up the intensity, tone your emotional state, or slow it down to increase your ability to focus. All, more reasons to move and to consider how we move.