Neurobiology of Exercise? How about the Neuroanthropology of Exercise!

I’ve just come across a good 2006 full-access review article on the Neurobiology of Exercise. Written by Rod Dishman and eighteen co-authors (!), the article covers some of the main areas that are coming clear with research on exercise and the brain:

-Effects of Exercise on Brain and Behavior
-Exercise as Countering Stress
-Energy Balance
-How Physical Activity Is Regulated

But the review mainly caught my eye for these lines in the abstract:

Mechanisms explaining these adaptations are not as yet known, but metabolic and neurochemical pathways among skeletal muscle, the spinal cord, and the brain offer plausible, testable mechanisms that might help explain effects of physical activity and exercise on the central nervous system.

Muscle, the peripheral nervous system, and the brain – a dynamic combination! For me, the implications go far beyond trying to understanding something like “exercise and health.” How activity as both cultural and physical form shapes us is a central way to understand ourselves as embodied beings, as having encultured nervous systems that can do incredibly skilled activities. That takes us a step further than – oh, exercise, the brain must have something to do with that.

For a vivid demonstration of just what I mean, watch this video. The action really gets going about 50 seconds in.

And for those of you who want more links, here are some other recent articles:

Linking brains and brawn: exercise and the evolution of human neurobiology (2013)

Neuroplasticity – Exercise-Induced Response of Peripheral Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor: A Systematic Review of Experimental Studies in Human Subjects (2010)

Physical activity and brain plasticity in late adulthood: a conceptual and comprehensive review (2012)

Sport, Modernity, and the Body (2012)

The Anthropology of Sport and Human Movement: A Biocultural Perspective (2010)

And of course any of my colleague Greg Downey’s pieces!

Big hat-tip to Timothy Lende for finding such a great video!

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