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Friday, December 29, 2017

The Dopamine Brain-Exercise Connection

Exercise is an important part of staying healthy. For individuals suffering from various diseases, however, exercise becomes a critical part of fighting their disease. Exercise also benefits the brain. There are many neuro-protective benefits that happen when your body gets moving!

Here’s a bit of science from the Parkinson’s Foundation that helps us understand one important function of the brain-body connection to exercise: Dopamine release.

“At the molecular level, at least two things happen to make dopamine use more efficient: (1) Dopamine travels across a space between two adjacent brain cells called a synapse. This process is called signaling and it’s essential for normal functioning. To end the signal, a protein complex called the dopamine transporter normally relieves dopamine from the synapse. (2) They found that cells receiving the dopamine signal had more places for the dopamine to bind in animals that exercised and could receive a stronger signal.”

The key here was exercise.

So what is dopamine, and what does it do? Dopamine is a neurotransmitter; basically, it carries signals between brain cells. It plays an important role in memory, mood, sleep and movement, and it gives you that rewarding feeling of “I did it!” when you accomplish something. There’s a reason why we feel pretty good after eating dark chocolate: Dopamine release. (Sorry, but that’s not an excuse to eat a whole box of chocolates.)

Dopamine isn’t limited to humans. It’s also widespread in the animal kingdom, and even some plants make use of dopamine, such as the opium poppy.

Consistent exercise is the best way to see results physically and mentally. Regardless of the intensity of your exercise program, the benefits are rewarding. With consistent exercise you can relieve stress, increase mental clarity and lessen the risk of disease.

Parkinson’s, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, thyroid disease, asthma, arthritis and even back pain all benefit by exercise.

Want to hear more on the mind-body connection? Then don’t miss the “Soothing that Barking Dog in our Brains,” the first lecture in our 2018 Lecture Series, hosted by Dr. Gregory Fricchione from Harvard Medical School. For more information about Dr. Fricchione's and other lectures in the series, click here.

The Parkinson’s Support Group will meet at 3 p.m. on Jan. 18 in the Medical Center conference room. Please contact Jenny at 305-367-6707 if you or a caregiver will be attending.


The Medical Center at Ocean Reef
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Key Largo, FL  33037

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