A new study shows that rather than picking up that brain teaser, we should put on our running shoes in order to increase our brain power.
That’s what an Association for Psychological Science review concluded recently. The paper covered a variety of activities that may help stimulate brain activity. However, they highlighted physical activity. The authors wrote:
“What is most impressive to us is the evidence demonstrating benefits of aerobic physical exercise on cognitive functioning in older adults.”
They also wrote that studies in both animals and humans “overwhelmingly” point to the fact that physical activity is good for the brain. How does exercise help the brain? While the activity is good for the brain generally, there are also specific functions that are aided by physical activity:
“Things like deciding to change behavior or planning ahead, short-term memory, and focusing and maintaining attention.”
What’s interesting is the sophistication of the brain’s sensitivity. The authors of the research found that the boost to the brain comes from “moderate” exercise. That is, the distance of a walk is related to cognitive ability but not necessarily the speed. So, walking two miles is better than walking one mile but walking it faster doesn’t necessarily help. One exception to intensity is interval training, which involves more alternating intense intervals of activity with rest.
One of the study authors, Arthur Kramer, a neuroscientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that they have so much research in this area that it would justify starting a public policy campaign that inform people to exercise in order to improve brain function.
It seems to me that as much research as is done on our bodies, regardless of age, the results turn out very similar in the end. The human body needs healthy input and output. Our bodies need healthy foods, as natural as we can possibly consume them, healthy physical activity (which doesn’t have to be exotic or intense, so everyone can do it) and it needs healthy interaction with people and the world around us to keep our brains alert and stimulated.
I realize I may be simplifying things, especially in the case that someone is injured or has a disease that makes any one of those things difficult, if not impossible. However, by and large, we seem to be hardwired to do the very basics of to maintain healthy mind, body, and soul. I believe it can be much more difficult when we’re older, but we have very little excuse when we are younger. If we can’t find time to exercise, we might have a little too much clutter in our lifestyle. If you’re a new first time mom, like me, and getting out of the house seems like a major accomplishment, we can still walk or even do a simple work out at home, thanks to all the workout DVDs available.
It’s been said that our bodies are like a temple. I know we may not always act like it, but it’s never too late to start.