Your Brain on Exercise

How many of you made a New Year’s resolution to exercise more? And how many are still working towards that goal? Unfortunately studies show that by February, most resolutions have died off. In fact, a third won’t even make it to the end of January! So to get you back on track, I wanted to share a book we are reading this week that focuses on more than just getting your body in shape.

4264-largeSpark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, is a book by John Ratey, M.D., a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Everyone knows the benefit exercise has on your muscles and your heart, but what about your brain? Dr. Ratey suggests that you can not only beat stress and reduce depression, but increased regular exercise has clearly been shown to improve cognition and memory, and allows you to function better.

In short, Dr. Ratey states:

The evidence is incontrovertible: aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance.


Dr. Ratey attributes exercise to being “the single most powerful tool you have to optimize your brain function.” So if getting your body in shape wasn’t enough motivation, then hopefully getting your brain in shape (or keeping it that way!), will be motivation enough. Dr. Ratey recommends doing some form of aerobic activity six days a week, with two of those days being a high intensity workouts.

So what about mood elevation? Dr. Ratey writes that increased regular exercise is capable of decreasing depression and anxiety, and also elevates our mood. He says, “I tell people that going for a run is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin because, like the drugs, exercise elevates these neurotransmitter.” That is quite a statement!

Regular physical exercise makes and keeps the brain sharp, makes you feel better, and look better too! And can even increase creativity and ward off signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia, as this video explains.

There is no magic pill to make you healthy. Everyone is responsible to make sure that their body and mind are at peak performance. The good news is that it only takes a couple of hours a week, and the benefits last a lifetime. What do you plan to do for your mind and body this week?

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