Exercise and the Brain’s Performance

If having a strong healthy body isn’t enough to get out of your seat, then consider how exercise affects your cognitive ability by raising your IQ, warding off Alzheimer’s and dementia, preventing and treating depression and slowing the effects of aging!

Dr. John Ratey, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist and author of Spark, ascertains that exercise is overwhelmingly beneficial for the brain – improving memory, focus, cognitive functioning, and mood – and the physical changes we see from exercise are more of a side effect. In his new book Spark, Dr. Ratey writes that exercise improves our ability to learn and actually makes us smarter, even as we age by increasing blood flow to the brain, creating a surge in protective neurochemicals and allowing the brain to grow.

The effects of physical exercise on the brain are dramatically more beneficial than memory exercises such as sudoku and crossword puzzles that doctors have prescribed in the past. New research illustrates that women who regularly engage in moderate exercise have a 50% decrease risk of dementia and men and women who already have dementia or Alzheimer’s have higher cognitive functioning when they exercise than those who are sedentary. Dr. Ratey says the equation for brain health looks like this:

Healthy Brain = keeping your weight down + exercise for the brain + exercise for the body*

*(by far the most robust factor in the equation.)

Studies also indicate the positive effects exercise has on mood, hormonal changes in women and overall state of happiness. One study he referenced showed that a brisk 20-minute walk a day is just as effective to treat mild depression as taking Zoloft.

The effects of exercise go well beyond what we see in our physical changes. For more information on exercise and its effects on your brain, please visit http://sparkinglife.org

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