<![CDATA[Kozi Comfort - Blog: Kozi Comforts]]>Fri, 15 Jan 2016 16:53:54 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Business Insider: 12 "healthy Habits" you're better off giving up]]>Fri, 15 Jan 2016 03:09:27 GMThttp://kozicomfort.weebly.com/blog-kozi-comforts/business-insider-12-healthy-habits-youre-better-off-giving-upMike Nudelman and Erin Brodwin Jan. 9, 2016, 10:00 AM
<![CDATA[Herbal Medicine]]>Sun, 10 Jan 2016 17:56:34 GMThttp://kozicomfort.weebly.com/blog-kozi-comforts/herbal-medicine
Article from: University of New Hampshire Health Services http://unh.edu/health-services/ohep/complementaryalternative-health-practices/herbal-medicine

Learn more by reading our blog or by visiting our website at www.kozizones.com

Herbal MedicineWhat is herbal medicine?Herbs have played a major part in medicine for thousands of years.
Every culture and every medicinal system, from Ayurveda to Traditional Chinese Medicine, have used herbs for therapeutic purposes. There are thousands of herbs with thousands of different uses, many of which are used in conventional medicine as well as for natural remedies.
Herbs are widely used today, in teas, vitamins and natural supplements. While the benefits of herbal medicine are vast, it is important to understand the basis of herbal medicine and to recognize that some herbs can have negative impacts on health.
What is the history of herbal medicine?Herbal medicine has its roots in every culture around the world, from the Greeks, to the Celts, the Romans to the Arabs, and the Chinese to the Indians.
Western herbalism dates back to ancient Egypt, where records of garlic and juniper used for medicinal purposes were found from as early as 1700 B.C. By 100 B.C., the Greeks had developed a comprehensive philosophy of herbal medicine that related different herbs to different temperaments, seasons and elements such as earth, air, fire and water. The Romans took the Greek theories of medicine and added to them, creating a wealth of medical practices, some of which are still used today.
Eastern herbalism mainly comes from the traditions of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). These two medicinal systems use herbs to bring the body back in balance so that it can heal itself. In TCM, this means restoring qi, or "life energy," and balancing the yin forces with theyang forces. Both traditions incorporate knowledge of the elements, the seasons and parts of the body into their herbal treatments.
Other traditions such as Native Americans from both North America and South America have used herbs in medicine. Many of these traditions incorporate ritual and magic into their practices with the use of a shaman, or medicine man.
What are the principles of herbal medicine?Herbalism is designed to use herbs to treat the underlying causes of disease in a client. Instead of looking at the signs and symptoms and then treating the disease, herbalists look at the whole picture, from lifestyle to physical stressor, in order to prescribe the right treatment.
Once the cause of a condition is discovered, the herb is prescribed to restore the body's natural balance. Herbalism is understanding how different herbs work with the body to restore balance and health.
Herbs are also used in many traditions as a preventative action to boost immune function and promote general wellbeing before any disease occurs.
While many pharmaceutical companies use the active ingredients found in herbs in their products, herbalists believe in something called "herbal synergy," which means that in order for the herb to be as safe and effective as possible, it is important to use the whole plant instead of extracting only the active ingredients. For instance, meadowsweet contains salicylic acid, which is the active ingredient in aspirin. While aspirin alone often causes issues in people who have sensitive stomachs, meadowsweet also contains tannin and mucilage, which work to protect the stomach from the salicylic acid. 1
Are there different types of herbal medicine?There are many different types of herbal medicine with roots in many different traditions. For more information on different medicinal systems that use herbs, see Ayurveda, and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
How are herbs prepared?Decoctions are made by boiling barks, roots and berries to extract the active ingredients. The liquid is strained and can be taken either hot or cold.
Tinctures are made by soaking herbs in water and alcohol to extract and preserve the active ingredients. The liquid is then stored in small bottles and taken with water.
Infusions are made like teas. Boiling water is poured over the herb and is left to sit for about 10 minutes, creating a liquid to be taken as a hot drink or medicine.
Infused Oils are made with chopped herbs and oil. The mixture is either placed in a bowl over boiling water, or left to infuse in the sunlight.
Creams are made from herbs and either oil or fat. The mixture simmers for about three hours before it is strained and set in dark bottles.
Ointments are also made from herbs combined with either oil or fat. The ointment is then heated quickly over boiling water before it is strained and set.
What are the benefits of herbal medicine?Herbal medicine can be very useful for treating many different illnesses from minor scrapes and burns to serious diseases. Herbal medicines are mostly used for persistent illnesses such as migraines, arthritis, depression and PMS.
Herbal remedies are easy to take, and many herbs can be grown at home, so they are often more convenient for minor conditions. It is important to note that herbal remedies cannot replace conventional treatments in many cases, and that not all herbs are safe for human ingestion.
What are some commonly used herbs?
  • Echinacea - often used in tinctures or powders to reduce symptoms of the common cold and flu. It is also used for infections, particularly those of the kidney.
  • Garlic - used to reduce cholesterol levels and blood pressure, as well as for treating infections. It can be taken fresh, as a powder, as oil or as a juice.
  • Ginger - commonly used to reduce nausea, to reduce symptoms of colds and chills through sweating and to boost circulation. It can be taken fresh, dried, or as oil.
  • Gingko - most commonly used to improve memory. Gingko improves circulation, particularly to the brain, though it is also used to regulate irregular heartbeats and to reduce symptoms of dementia. It is usually taken as a tincture or an infusion.
  • Ginseng - used to boost the immune system and decrease fatigue. It is also used for lungs conditions such as coughs, and to reduce blood pressure. The root is taken as a powder, tincture, or decoction.
  • St. John's Wort - used as an anti-depressant, for anxiety, irritability and exhaustion. It can also be used topically for burns and inflammations. St. John’s Wort is usually taken as an infusion, tincture or cream.
  • Lavender - popular as aromatic oil, and can be used to treat a wide variety of ailments from exhaustion to headaches, and indigestion to depression. It is commonly taken as an infusion, tincture, mouthwash, cream, lotion, massage oil, chest rub, hair rinse or oil.
  • Chamomile - a popular herb used for indigestion, stress relief, anxiety, and insomnia. It is also used for asthma and bronchitis. It can be taken as an infusion, tincture, ointment, inhalation or mouthwash.
Can I use herbs on my own?Many people use herbs as daily supplements, or to treat specific ailments. While it usually safe and effective to do so, it is important to educate yourself on the correct way to use each herb, as some are not safe to ingest.
If you do decide to take an herbal supplement, it is important to let your health care provider know, as many herbs interact with other forms of medicine.

SourcesEncyclopedia of Healing Therapies by Anne Woodham and Dr. David Peters; pg 135.
Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine. Time, Inc.
Encyclopedia of Healing Therapies by Anne Woodham and Dr. David Peters.
Alternative Healing: The Complete A-Z Guide to more than 150 AlternativeTherapies by Mark Kastner, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., and Hugh Burroughs. Henry Holt and Company: 1996.
Natural Health Complete Guide to Medicinal Herbs by Penelope Ody, MNIMH. Dorling Kindersley, New York: 2000.

<![CDATA[Breakfast.... Satisfying Meals to Start Your Day Right]]>Thu, 07 Jan 2016 03:53:28 GMThttp://kozicomfort.weebly.com/blog-kozi-comforts/breakfast-satisfying-meals-to-start-your-day-right
Breakfast literally means, breaking the fast. You haven't eating in hours, most likely since dinner the night before, that's why it's so important to fuel your body with healthy and wholesome choices. Too many people forgo breakfast, it's simple to add these recipes from Pop Sugar, to your daily routine. A good breakfast sets you up for success!

1 Egg White Frittata

Classic Mediterranean ingredients like peppers, onion, and spinach bring texture, flavor, and nutrition to this low-calorie frittata, while egg whites and feta provide over 20 grams of protein. It's quick enough to come together on a weekday morning but elegant enough to serve to friends at a special weekend brunch.
Total calories: 300
2 Baked Eggs in Ham Cups

Pop in a batch of these protein-heavy eggs in ham shells when you wake up, and enjoy a hot, hearty, and quick breakfast before you leave for work.
Total calories (for two ham cups): 218

3 Italian Baked Egg and Vegetables

This baked egg dish is Jessica Simpson's go-to Weight Watchers breakfast. If you're worried about roasting vegetables in the morning, simply roast a big batch of vegetables on Sunday night so you can easily add them to this dish all week long.
Total calories: 149

4 Low-Carb Hotcakes

Even if you're conscious of calories, you can still enjoy a stack of hotcakes! Thesewheat-free pancakes use almond meal and flaxseed to increase their protein and fiber content.
Total calories (per serving): 152

5 Coconut Chia Pudding

Chia seeds and coconut milk marry for a Paleo-friendly pudding that works great for breakfast. High in anti-inflammatory omega-3s, this sweet chia pudding is a make-ahead recipe that will save you time, fill you up on fiber, and help you debloat for just over 200 calories.
Total calories: 206

Remember to relax, release, restore and be KOZI

We make these awesome herbal wraps perfect for aches, pains, or keeping warm during the cold winter weather. Use them HOT or COLD! Visit our website at www.shop.kozizones.com to check 'em out. 

<![CDATA[3 Science-Backed Ways to Keep Your New Year's Resolution]]>Fri, 01 Jan 2016 17:53:03 GMThttp://kozicomfort.weebly.com/blog-kozi-comforts/3-science-backed-ways-to-keep-your-new-years-resolution
Tanya Lewis
Dec. 31, 2015, 10:30 AMhttp://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-keep-your-new-years-resolutions-2015-12

Ever find yourself making resolutions each year to hit the gym, quit smoking, or run a marathon, only to end up in a spiral of disappointment and self-loathing? Fear not! We've put together some tips on the best ways to keep your New Year's resolutions.

Here's what you should do:

1. Be realistic

Many people have the problem of making overambitious resolutions that they have no hope of sticking to. Psychologist Peter Herman coined the term "false hope syndrome" for the cycle of setting unrealistic expectations, failing to meet them, and repeatedly trying to change.
In a 2009 study in the journal journal Behavior Therapy, Herman and his colleagues found that people who were given resolutions to exercise or meditate a set number of hours a week were not likely to succeed as well as they had expected, suggesting the goals were too ambitious.
So rather than trying to lose 50 pounds all at once or quit smoking cold-turkey, it's probably wiser to set smaller goals you're more likely to achieve, like losing 5-10 pounds a month or cutting down a few cigarettes each week.

2. Focus on the process, not the outcome

Another problem many of us have is that we tend to set outcome-based resolutions, like deciding to run a marathon or land a top job. But as Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy explained to Tech Insider, if we don't achieve these outcomes — many of which can be unrealistic — we can feel like a failure.
Cuddy suffered this problem herself, when she once decided to become a marathon runner. Every year, she would run a few miles in January, and then give up, disappointed that she wasn't suddenly running marathons, she told Tech Insider.

So instead of setting outcome-type goals, Cuddy recommends focusing on the process that leads to that outcome. So if you want to run a marathon, you could resolve to run a little bit each day, and gradually work your way up to longer distances.

3. Set positive goals

Too often, our resolutions can involve changing negative things about ourselves, Cuddy notes, like being overweight or having bad finances. But this only reinforces negative feelings about ourselves.
So you may be better off focusing on positive things you'll enjoy, like signing up for a sports class or learning how to cook healthy homemade meals, Cuddy suggests.

Finally, it's important to remember that most of our resolutions involve change, and change is hard.
As clinical psychologist Joseph Luciani notes in US News & World Report, "all change entails emotional friction," which leaves us feeling stressed. And stress makes us more likely to fail.
So, instead of giving up on our resolutions at the first sign of struggle, cut yourself some slack, but keep at it. You'll get there eventually.

#relax #release #restore shop.kozizones.com
<![CDATA[Aromatic Benefits of: Rosemary]]>Tue, 29 Dec 2015 02:37:58 GMThttp://kozicomfort.weebly.com/blog-kozi-comforts/aromatic-benefits-of-rosemary
Rosemary, an herb often used in Italian cooking- is a perennial herb with leaves similar to evergreen pine-needles, also has great health benefits. 

FUN FACT: Rosemary is part of the mint family!

This herb, although it has no nutritional value has wonderful health benefits, we use Rosemary in all of our Kozi products as a headache support. Research shows that rosemary contains compounds similar to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, which act to relieve headaches. The name rosemary comes from the Latin word rosmarinus, meaning "mist of the sea" or "dew of the sea". Rosemary also is closely related to basil, lavender, and oregano. Rosemary’s anti-inflammatory qualities also help to relieve pain from sprains and joint aches. It is also known to stimulate blood circulation, which help to relieve pain and aid in faster healing so you can #relax #release #restore

Other health benefits of rosemary include: improved memory and cognition, neurological protection, and protection against brain aging. 

To learn more visit our website: www.shop.kozizones.com 



<![CDATA[5 Daily Habits That Can Speed Up Your Metabolism, According To Someone In The Know]]>Thu, 24 Dec 2015 04:01:49 GMThttp://kozicomfort.weebly.com/blog-kozi-comforts/5-daily-habits-that-can-speed-up-your-metabolism-according-to-someone-in-the-know
 from Bustle
November 2

There are loads of reasons to love your body, even if you're stuck trying to figure out how to speed up your metabolism. For starters, it helps you get from point A to point B (which rocks, when point A is a pizza joint and point B is your couch). 
But perhaps the best thing to love about your body and your metabolism? It constantly does you a solid by burning calories all on its own. How? Well, first of all, it's important to mention that having a naturally slow metabolism isn't inherently dangerous to your health, so you shouldn't sweat it, as long as you feel your best. If you're feeling low in energy, however, a slowed down metabolism could be to blame, according to Forbes.

Although there are genetic factors that can play into your metabolic rate, according to the New York Times, there are everyday behaviors that impact it, too. Could you be slowing your metabolism and you don't even know it? I caught up with Keri Gans, RD and author of The Small Change Diet, for her advice when it comes to habits that can speed up your metabolism.

1. Sleep
​According to a 2010 review published in the International Journal of Endocrinology, sleep deprivation has a profound effect on metabolic function. The less sleep you get, the more likely it is to see hiccups and slowing in your regular metabolic rate.
"If you're tired, a lot of times, you make poor choices," says Gans in a phone interview with Bustle. "Our body needs time to repair itself, it needs rest."
Gans stresses that making sure you get enough sleep isn't just crucial on the weekends when you find yourself playing catch-up after a busy work week. If anything, "that just plays havoc on your system," says Gans.

Try laying out a schedule and giving yourself a bedtime a la your toddler years. You don't have to tell mom now, but seems like she was really on to something with that whole lights out at 9 p.m. thing.

2. Building Muscle
Muscle has a huge impact on the amount of calories you burn, according to an article published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Plain and simple: Muscles use a lot more calories than fat during the day (even while you're resting).

"The more muscular you are, you'll burn more calories at rest," says Gans. "Hit the gym, get to your downward dogs, paddle board — anything that builds up muscle — get out there and enjoy it, especially as you age."

Plus, Gans says, building up muscle can help support bone health. Both muscles and bones become stronger when muscles work against bones during bouts of exercise. The benefit? Better overall health and a strength when it comes to doing everyday tasks ranging from lifting a box up the stairs to walking to the train.

3. Not Skipping Meals
We've all been there: Sometimes we get so busy that we forget to eat breakfast or lunch, and before we know it it's 4 p.m. and we haven't eaten a thing (and no, coffee doesn't count as a meal). The problem? Skipping meals can actually shock the metabolism and give you less-than-satisfactory results.

"The longer a woman goes between meals, especially if she's skipping them, the body kind of goes into a 'I don't know when my next meal is coming, I'm gonna hold onto whatever I have' phase," says Gans. "Then, your metabolism slows down. That's why it's super important not to skip."

If you skip meals, you're likely to have much lower energy, which can affect you physically, emotionally, and mentally.

4. Loading Up On Spicy Foods
Eating spicy food can speed up your metabolism — chili peppers, in particular. The peppers have a compound called capsaicin which gives them their powerful kick. A study published in the New York Times indicated that the capsaicin creates a large bump in heat generation, helping send your energy producers into high gear immediately after a meal.

5. Drinking Water
"Plain and simple, if you're dehydrated, metabolism slows down," says Gans.
Especially in the summer when you're more prone to dehydration, make sure you're getting in a minimum of 64 ounces of water each day. Not a fan of plain old water? Add cucumber, lemon, or pineapple for a flavor boost that'll leave you hankering for more.

<![CDATA[Healthy Foods You May Be Eating Wrong]]>Tue, 22 Dec 2015 03:24:55 GMThttp://kozicomfort.weebly.com/blog-kozi-comforts/healthy-foods-you-may-be-eating-wrong
November 8, 2015 by JENNY SUGAR

We have the best intentions when we choose healthy foods to nosh on. But if you eat them the wrong way, you could be missing out on valuable nutrients or getting more calories than you bargained for. Here are six good-for-you foods commonly eaten in not-so-healthy ways.

High in vitamin A and bursting with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, the sweet potato is one tuber you shouldn't pass up. Sweet potato fries are definitely not the healthiest way to enjoy this orange-colored veggie, since frying adds tons of fat and calories. Boiling is a good method, as long as you don't mash the sweet potatoes with tons of butter and brown sugar. Instead, try steaming diced chunks or baking the potato whole.
If you have a craving for fries, here's a recipe for oven-baked spiced sweet potato fries. Choose organic potatoes over conventional ones so you can also enjoy the benefits of the fiber-rich skin.

A great source of quick protein and one of the best pre-workout snacks, peanut butter should be simply made by crushing peanuts, but if you're not mindful about which jar you choose, it might also contain added sugar, salt, and hydrogenated oils. Avoid the unnecessary fats and sugars by choosing natural peanut butter or making your own.


Holy protein and fiber! Beans are inexpensive and low in fat, so they're a great addition to a healthy diet. The problem is that most beans come in cans lined with BPA. Exposure to this chemical has been linked to cancer, heart disease, and early puberty. Canned beans are also high in sodium, so soaking and boiling your own beans is your best bet. If you're short on time, choose Eden or Westbrae Natural BPA-free canned beans.


When you need a quick nibble or a healthy way to satisfy a sugar craving, dried fruit is a healthy option. Well, that is if it's not covered in sugar. Make sure to choose dried fruits made without added sugars. Sometimes you can tell just by looking at the fruit, but if you're not sure, check the package. Of course, on a lazy Sunday, you can also make your own — try these recipes for dried mango and dried cantaloupe.


An apple makes the perfect snack because it's sweet, juicy, and full of fiber to satiate your hunger cravings. Most of the vitamins and minerals are found in the peel, such as vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium, folate, and iron, so if you peel the skin, you're throwing out all that nutrition. Be sure to buy organic apples and crunch on this fruit with the red, yellow, or green peel intact.


Many people can't stomach eating raw broccoli and would much rather munch on these florets after they're cooked. Boiling your broccoli may be traditional, but it isn't the healthiest cooking method, as it zaps away the nutritional value. When enjoying this green veggie, lightly steam or sauté it for only a few minutes, just to slightly soften the stems and produce a bright green hue.

<![CDATA[Holiday Gift Guide]]>Thu, 17 Dec 2015 04:04:45 GMThttp://kozicomfort.weebly.com/blog-kozi-comforts/holiday-gift-guide
The holiday's are growing near, and many of you may still be searching for gift ideas for your family and friends. From gift sets to individual wraps, each of our products are handmade in the U.S, using a special formula of 12 herbs and grains. These luxurious herbal wraps can be used heated or chilled to alleviate aches and pains or simply just to unwind after a long day.

Check out our selection of all-natural aromatherapy at shop.kozizones.com 
​*We even have an organic line too 
<![CDATA[Aromatherapy: Cinnamon]]>Sun, 13 Dec 2015 16:18:06 GMThttp://kozicomfort.weebly.com/blog-kozi-comforts/aromatherapy-cinnamon
Earlier this year, we at Kozi began this blog as a way to highlight the 12 amazing herbs and grains that are used in our products and are so very beneficial to your health, through aromatherapy. The blog has evolved from our own research, to sharing articles about health, fitness, food and other things we find interesting and we hope you do too! We absolutely love what we do and encourage you to implement aromatherapy into your life, as it relaxes, releases and restores the mind and body. 

Today we wanted to share more on these amazing herbs, but from other authors around the country. ENJOY!

by Kathy Keville

The simple powder used in cooking starts off as the dry inner bark of a large 20-to-30-foot tree most likely growing in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon). The Arabs, who first brought cinnamon to the West, created a myth to frighten away rival traders, saying it could only be gathered in marshes from the nest of the great phoenix that was guarded by winged serpents and bats!
The Portuguese finally seized Ceylon in 1505, but the plants were such coveted commodities that the Dutch later conquered the country, followed by the British in 1798. Today, cinnamon’s aromatherapy properties are well known.
Then, as now, cinnamon flavored mouthwashes, foods, and drinks and was used as an aphrodisiac. Cinnamon‘s scent also stirs the appetite, invigorates and warms the senses, and may even produce a feeling of joy. There are several types of cinnamon oil to choose from: Oil can be distilled from the leaf or the much more potent bark, or you can obtain cassia oil, a less expensive relative of cinnamon that comes from China.
Principal constituents of cinnamon: The more irritant bark is 40-50 percent cinnamaldehyde and 4-10 percent eugenol; the leaf is 3 percent cinnamaldehyde and 70-90 percent eugenol. Cinnamon also contains linalol, methylamine ketone, and others.
Scent of cinnamon: It has a sweet, spicy-hot fragrance.
Therapeutic properties of cinnamon: Antiseptic, digestive, antiviral; relieves muscle spasms and rheumatic pain when used topically
Uses for cinnamon: In general, cinnamon is used as a physical and emotional stimulant. Researchers have found that it reduces drowsiness, irritability, and the pain and number of headaches. In one study, the aroma of cinnamon in the room helped participants to concentrate and perform better.
The essential oil and its fragrance help relax tight muscles, ease painful joints, and relieve menstrual cramps. In addition, it increases circulation and sweating when used as a liniment. Use 2 to 4 drops per ounce of vegetable oil for a warming oil or 8 drops per ounce to make a hot liniment.
Warnings for cinnamon: Both bark and leaf oils can irritate mucous membranes, but the bark oil is especially hot. Use no more than one-half drop in the bath, and avoid its use in cosmetics since it can redden and even burn the skin.
To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:
  • Aromatherapy: Learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
  • Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
  • How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
  • Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
  • Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and editor of theAmerican Herb Association Quarterly newsletter. A writer, photographer, consultant, and teacher specializing in aromatherapy and herbs for over 25 years, she has written several books, includingAromatherapy: The Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Pocket Guide to Aromatherapy, and has written over 150 articles for such magazines as New Age Journal, The Herb Companion, and New Herbal Remedies. This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.



<![CDATA[´╗┐Exercise May Make The Brain More Flexible]]>Fri, 11 Dec 2015 02:35:19 GMThttp://kozicomfort.weebly.com/blog-kozi-comforts/exercise-may-make-the-brain-more-flexible
The brain used to be the one organ that researchers believed was pretty unchanging over time, in contrast to other organs that are always replenishing themselves. After all, the brain sort of has to stay constant if it’s going to keep all our memories and experiences intact over the course of our lifetimes. But in recent years, neuroscientists have found that indeed the brain does retain some plasticity – malleability – and it seems to become considerably more plastic when people exercise their bodies. Now, a new study finds that an area of the brain involved in vision, originally thought to be fairly resistant to change, also responds strongly to short bouts of exercise. The discovery is exciting, and it makes you wonder what other effects exercise might have on the brain, especially over the course of a lifetime.

The team of researchers behind the new study replicated a setup that had been done in animals before: They had people wear eye patches, and either exercise or sit still and watch a movie. Normally, when a person or animal wears an eye patch, the covered eye becomes stronger to compensate for the lack of input. In the current study, when people exercised intermittently on a stationary bike, their covered eye became significantly stronger, compared with the people who were sedentary. Which suggests that the brain may enter a state of increased plasticity as a response to physical exercise.
Why would exercise increase plasticity in a brain region known to not be plastic? Author Claudia Lunghi from the University of Pisa, who carried out the study along with Alessandro Sale from the National Research Council, tells me that exercise seems to reduce inhibition in certain cells – in other words, “it’s as if physical activity removed the brakes, to trigger plasticity,” she says. The neurotransmitter GABA is the main inhibitor of neuronal activity, so if its presence is decreased by exercise or by anything else, then the brain can amp up its activity, and therefore become more malleable.
This is certainly not the first study to show that the brain is more adaptable than we thought. There’s been lot of work, for instance, on how antidepressants can increase plasticity in certain brain regions, which is thought to be why antidepressants and talk therapy are more effective in tandem than alone. Exercise does a similar thing, particularly in the way of helping “grow” new neurons in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that shrinks with age, depression, and dementia. But Lunghi thinks it’s too early to prescribe exercise alone for depression, or for any other disorder for that matter.
“Our study is more surprising because it indicates that moderate levels of physical exercise can promote plasticity in the visual cortex, a structure that is thought to be lacking plasticity in adulthood,” she says. “For this reason the fact that a non-invasive manipulation such as physical activity can boost plasticity in the visual cortex is particularly surprising and particularly important. It indicates that the effect of physical activity on brain plasticity is pervasive and very strong.” Using different types of exercise to help treat people with brain injuries is an obvious application, she adds, especially in times when “new connections and circuits need to be ‘built’ to recover, or in the case of pathological aging, when brain-death has to be slowed down. Keeping the brain plastic actually would be very important to prevent pathological brain aging.”

Time will tell how exercise may be used in the future to help the brain recover function by boosting plasticity. Her immediate plans are to research “lazy eye,” or amblyopia, which is thought to be treatable only in childhood, since in adulthood the brain can’t recover function as well. But that all may change now. “If by combining the classic treatment for amblyopia (occlusion of the non-amblyopic eye) and physical activity we will be able to enhance visual plasticity to recover visual function of the amblyopic eye, then we will give a chance to these patients.”
In the meantime, exercise can only benefit your body and brain, whether we understand all the molecular mechanisms or not. So, if you can, take a walk or hop on the stationary bike. It may do more for your neurons than science can even understand right now.