exercise and genes

Exercise affects Genes – Increased BDNF

Today we look at how exercise affects genes (previous article on neurotransmitters and exercise can be read here), in particular we focus on the effects of exercise on the gene that codes for BDNF.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)— or “the fertilizer of the brain” as Dr. Mohammad Alsuwaidan nicknames it— is a protein fundamental for the growth and protection of neurons in the brain, helping us carry out mental functions such as learning, memory, and higher thinking.

The research shows that there is a difference in gene activity in the brains of regular exercisers and the brains of non-exercisers. These findings suggest that aerobic exercise somehow activates the gene responsible for BDNF production leading to an increase in BDNF levels. Several studies summarized in a New York Times article, suggest that just one session of aerobic execrise might enhance memory and learning because of these higher levels of BDNF.

This week, I encourage you to increase your level of activity, whether it is biking, yoga, or simply, going on more walks and see its affects on your brain function and memory. Your brain will thank you!


Berchtold NC, Chinn G, Chou M, Kesslak JP, Cotman CW. Exercise primes a molecular memory for brain-derived neurotrophic factor protein induction in the rat hippocampus. Neuroscience. 2005;133(3):853-61. PubMed PMID: 15896913.