BDNF – what is it and how to increase it?

BDNF – what is it and how to increase it?

BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor is viewed as an essential protein that affects brain function, like building new neurons and synapses, thus promoting cognitive function.

This protein is one of many which support the brain and the peripheral nervous system. BDNF is considered extensively important and plays a crucial role not only in preventing physical and mental diseases but, according to an article from Stanford University, can “represent exciting possibilities for reversing a number of devastating brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Huntington’s Disease”.

Five ways to increase your BDFN

1. Food

When it comes to our cognitive function, there is already a well-established list of brain foods that have promoting properties. Fruits like blueberries and red grapes, healthy fats like olive oil, salmon or walnuts, and even dark chocolate and coffee (in moderation) contain substances that increase our BDFN. Or how about skipping a meal every once in a while. Digesting food puts our bodies through strain, and certain foods can cause inflammation which lowers our BDFN levels. Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, gives your body time to rest and repair.


2. Sleep

This is the time when our bodies regenerate and rebuild cells. Adequate sleep makes sure that also new brain cells are produced.

3. Manage stress

Stress and its detrimental effects are widely known but still highly underestimated. It boosts the release of cortisol and negatively affects memory retention. To have a healthy practice in place to be able to tackle stressful times is a game-changer.


4. Sun exposure

BDFN levels rise and fall with the seasons. Particularly during autumn and winter, even a 15-minute walk, letting your skin soak up the sun will positively affect your BDFN levels.

5. Exercise

On every list describing how to improve your health and well-being, moving our bodies almost always plays a crucial role. The same applies to increasing your BDFN. To boost this valuable protein, practising a sport that raises our heart rate is a great way to get the protein going as well. However, “researchers have more recently found that even a light exercise routine may be sufficient.” Taking into account that high-intensity training or excessive exercise can sometimes put the body through stress and release of stress hormones, which can have a declining effect on the BDNF levels. “These new reports are very encouraging because they indicate that everyone can enjoy the benefits of exercise by simply engaging in light activities”.


Stretching is the perfect alternative to rigorous exercise and has the benefit of being soft on your joints. Especially for people who are not able to perform heavy exercise, this is an excellent way to keep moving.

If you are new to stretching, consider joining flexibility classes or stretching classes to receive instructions on the correct postures and to ease you into this wonderful practice.

And even if you are more into running or lifting, to get your heart pumping, don’t forget to give your muscles a gentle warm-up to avoid strains, or worse, injuries. Stretching will softly prepare your tissue and give your body time to adapt to what’s about to come. 

Want to stretch more?

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Looking forward to seeing you on the mat!

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