Are you taking any supplements to keep your brain sharp? That’s good, but new research has an even easier, cheaper and more effective way to keep our brains in top form: exercise.
Harvard Psychiatrist John J. Ratey, MD has written a book called, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. In his book Dr. Ratey says “There are new ways to defend ourselves against neurologic decline. For example, exercise increases levels of a substance called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) which has been called Miracle-Gro for the brain because it helps nerve cells transmit information better. In fact, low levels of BDNF are associated with memory loss and depression. So increasing BDNF through exercise, functions as a means of natural memory support and an antidepressant in a more permanent way than drugs, or even the surge of endorphins, which exercise also causes. ” (Endorphins are the brain’s feel-good chemical which keeps us in an even and upbeat emotional state.)
“Every day I have patients who come to ask me for supplements to prevent or treat memory loss, depression or “brain fog”. There are good supplements, but there is one prescription that is more proven, consistently helpful and accessible than any pill, prescription or over the counter supplement. It’s called exercise.” This according to Myles Spar, MD, Medical Director of the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine. http://www.akashacenter.com/
Not only does exercise increase BDNF, it also impacts the density of brain gray matter. Gray matter makes up the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that allows us to process information. Research shows that the more dense the gray matter in the brain, the higher functioning the brain is. So keeping the brain’s gray matter in abundance is essential to keeping your marbles all the days of your life.
Bottom line: Exercise is like a great, free insurance policy to prevent brain decline. Of course you’ve heard of all the other terrific health benefits of exercise on your overall health and ability to keep yourself in shape to enjoy all the days of your life.
In order to get maximum results aerobic exercise is best for brain functioning. Aerobic exercise is called aerobic because your body calls for more oxygen and your heart rate goes up. So any exercise that accomplishes these two things is aerobic. You don’t have to go running on the street or get on a treadmill. You don’t have to do anything that is bone jarring either, in fact the less impact on our joints, the better. Here’s the Mayo Clinic’s heart rate calculator:
Subtract your age from 220. This is a rough calculation of your maximum heart rate. Determine the lower end of your target heart rate by multiplying your maximum heart rate by 0.7.Determine the upper end of your target heart rate by multiplying your maximum heart rate by 0.85.
Check out the Mayo Clinic site for tons of good information: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise-intensity/SM00113/NSECTIONGROUP=2
Ok, are you all excited to start a new exercise program? I know we have a lot of excuses: No time. Too much trouble. Hate the smell of the gym. I’ve heard all of those. Well, I’m a lousy athlete, would much rather sit and read a book than exercise. But I also don’t want to lose my brain function and I want to be healthy, so I came up with a program that works for me. Maybe all or parts of what I’ve done will work for you:
I live in a 2 story house so to get some aerobic exercise I walk the stairs 10 times 3 times a week. That really gets my heart rate going!
I walk 10,000 steps with 1 pound weights on my ankles 5 days a week . (I got the weights and pedometer at the sporting goods store - pedometer $15.00, weights $10 ea.) Walking 10,000 steps translates into 5 miles a day. It sounds like a lot and it is, but that counts every step I take from the time I get up till I go to bed. Just ordinary walking on flat ground is excellent exercise, but it does not get my heart rate up high enough to qualify as aerobic exercise, so I walk up hills in the neighborhood for 30 minutes a day as part of my 10,000 steps.
I will admit that walking takes some effort. Here are a few tricks.
- I park as far away from where I’m going as possible and walk the rest of the way.
- When I’m in a store I get what I came for and then I walk the perimeter of the store, if I have time, I walk it twice.
- In the morning I go out and walk in the neighborhood for 15 minutes to give myself a good start.
- Since I talk on the phone a lot for my business, I walk in the house or in my back yard while talking.
Once you get the drill down it’s easy – no gym fees, no special clothes (except good walking shoes), no need for any organized groups. And the results give a lot of bang for your time: I’ve lost 20 pounds, given my brain a good work out, strengthened my heart and toned my lower body.
Even if it were a lot of trouble I’d do it anyway because the alternatives are so unattractive.