A Karma Kumbaya for Jocks and Nerds

Funny how life is. High School is normally divided between the nerds who were mental giants, and the jocks who were often just mental. The nerds could get more in shape any time they wanted, but spent way too much time computing the algorithm showing what a waste of time it would all be anyway.

The jocks, we stereotypically think, are not going to get their brain cells knocked back INTO their skulls so the law of diminishing returns is not their friend. So we think that jocks will remain jocks, and nerds will remain nerds. After all, I’m pretty sure no one every characterized Newton (total genius), Einstein (geniuser), or Elon Musk (geniusest??) as a stud muffin. This just never happened.

The gravity of this issue turns out to have way more relativity. In fact, this study below (originally pubbed here) makes the point that, the more you exercise, the more efficient your big bulbous brain is at using the glucose it needs for you to compute why you shouldn’t be moving so much in the first place! It’s the Law of Conservation of Energy and Laziness!

So hey nerdom, get up and move more. Jockville keep moving, just don’t whack your head into things! In addition to jocks and nerds, this applies to us all. The more you move, the better your brain is at thinking and understanding how to do more movement than just laps between the couch and the fridge.

 

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Just two weeks of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) decreases how much blood glucose the brain needs to burn for energy in people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, according to results of a new study. And two weeks of even just moderate exercise improves the entire body’s insulin sensitivity in people with either health condition.

The human brain is normally an energy hog that consumes between 15-20% of the body’s circulating blood glucose (blood sugar). In those with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, the brain becomes less efficient; its energy metabolism increases and it burns through even more glucose and fatty acids. Previous studies have shown that losing weight decreases the brain’s consumption of blood glucose. The latest study wanted to find out if the same effect could be achieved with a short run of high-intensity exercise.

All of the study participants were middle-aged, non-exercising men and women with either type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. They did either two weeks of HIIT or two weeks of normal, moderate-intensity training on exercise bicycles. Each group completed six training sessions over the two-week period with an instructor. The participants were evaluated with positron emission tomography (PET scans) before and after the training.

The results showed that the brains of those who did two weeks of HIIT became more efficient consumers of blood glucose. The effect appeared across nearly all areas of the brain, suggesting that even a short run of exercise causes significant changes in how the brain metabolizes energy.

The same brain effect wasn’t seen in those who did two weeks of moderate exercise, but both groups benefited from an overall insulin sensitivityincrease. In other words, their bodies had to supply less insulin to control their circulating blood glucose.

“This study provides the first evidence that short-term exercise training alters brain glucose metabolism in subjects with impaired glucose tolerance,” the researchers reported in the study.

The researchers think it’s likely that moderate exercise would also eventually improve the brain’s blood glucose metabolism, given enough time. The fact that just two weeks of either kind of training improved overall glucose metabolism is encouraging, especially considering that none of the study participants were exercising before the study. This was truly a “cold start” for all involved, and everyone who participated saw some benefits.

The study was published in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism.

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