The limbic system, also called the paleomammalian brain, is a complex collection of brain structures that lie on both sides of the thalamus, directly under the cerebrum. It is thought by some neuroscientists that it was added to the forebrain in the course of evolution.
The main limbic structures include the hippocampus (memory centre), the amygdala (anger, anxiety and stress centre) and the limbic cortex that interconnects with the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for reasoning and judgment.
The limbic system supports functions such as emotion, behaviour and motivation and is devoted to supporting our survival structures that protect and regulate human emotions. Research suggests that it appears to be primarily responsible for emotional life, and it has a great deal to do with the formation of memories.
This information suggests that emotional wellbeing and happiness is linked to the wellbeing of the limbic system. Therefore it is possible that a deterioration of the limbic system could lead to more negative, out of control emotions such as rage and depression, leading to violence and a general neurological decline.
We, humans have peaks and troughs our mood based on the external factors around us. A sudden windfall will elevate our mood for example, but at some point our mood will return to normal. This suggests that there is an internal mechanism controlling our mood, but that external factors can influence it. However external factors can of course be more negative and long lasting and create emotional deterioration which can inevitably lead to stress and eventually depression.
This is where an enthusiastic, approachable and friendly personal trainer offering exercise programmes and health eating advice to keep peoples limbic systems positive and happy and help keep the negative impacts to a minimum.
Firstly it should be remembered that simply socialising regularly can help ensure the wellbeing of the limbic system so by promoting group exercise sessions and emphasising the social aspects of the session, clients will form new social relationships whilst exercising and boost the positivity of the limbic system.
It is common knowledge that exercising regularly simulates the mind as well as the body, and it is the limbic system in particular which benefits. Exercise helps to elevate mood and increase production of neurotransmitters that help you sleep, think and feel. A regime of exercise for 20 to 30 minutes, three to five times a week, can help maintain limbic system health.
We are all generally aware that eating a nutrient-rich diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole-grains will give the body its main sources of natural vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It is these that protect your brain cells from harmful molecules. Eating the recommended daily intake of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help the body maintain the optimal function of the neurotransmitters produced in your brain. As stated earlier these are needed to promote a healthy limbic system.
In addition to this, limiting saturated fats and replacing them with omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of chronic neuro-degenerative disease like Alzheimer's which has been linked to high consumptions of red meat. Omega-3 fatty acids from foods like fish or nuts can protect your brain and help to keep your limbic system stabilised.
Much of the information offered in this blog will already be apparent to most PT’s and the exercising population, however for a few, who are still not convinced, offering them a different angle relating to brain health and the associated benefits of exercise and healthy eating may just get them adhering!