Health Brain stimulation during exercise boosts body and mind

Brain stimulation during exercise boosts body and mind

Combining brawn and brain when exercising leads to big gains for both body and mind, university researchers have found.

Researchers at the University of Wollongong have discovered that stimulating your brain during exercise not only improves muscle strength and cardiovascular function, but also improves brain function.

The breakthrough could help the elderly improve cardiovascular and neuronal function,  stroke patients recover body movement, and possibly the performance of elite athletes.

The research team measured the benefits of eccentric cycling both with and without stimulation of the brain.

They found that eccentric cycling, where the cyclist resists a reverse motion of the pedals induced by electrical motors, exercises the brain more than forward or concentric cycling does.

“Not only does that eccentric mode provide a good cardiovascular benefit at a lower cost, what our work shows is that the activation you get in the brain is greater for an eccentric mode than for a concentric mode,” Professor Stapley said.

When eccentric cycling is combined with stimulation of the specific area of the brain that controls the legs, the brain activation level is even higher.

“For people who’ve had a stroke, our results would suggest that if you couple eccentric cycling with repeated stimulation that this will be a way of exercising the person but also regaining some function in those muscles that have been affected by pathology, for example after stroke,” Professor Stapley said.

It could also be used to reduce the risk of falls in the elderly. As eccentric muscle actions are used to walk down slopes or stairs, an eccentric exercise program combined with non-invasive stimulation could train the brain to better control eccentric actions while also improving cardiovascular function and muscle strength.

Professor Stapley said the findings could be applied to elite athletes as well, producing better overall training effects.

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