The more I learn about what exercise does for health and well-being, the more I want to go around like a Bible thumping, southern preacher spreading the good word: Go forth and sweat! Then sweat more. Get off your butt and exercise. More, harder, any where, any time. Just exercise!

We've known for a long time that exercise is good for reducing risks for cardiovascular disease and diabetes through sugar control and weight reduction. And exercise how exercise promotes bone health, and reduces the odds for colon, esophageal, and other cancers.

We've also know for a long time that exercise releases endorphins that make us feel good, like serotonin and dopamine. But the role of exercise in brain health goes way beyond feeling good - it actually enables the brain to develop and adapt. We can thank psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School Professor John Ratey for bringing the good word to lay people like TOJs in his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.
The contraction of muscles releases  Brain Derived Neurothropic Factor (BDNF), which in combination with Insulin-Like Growth Factor - 1 and several other factors and neuro-peptides, enables the brain to:
  • Develop new brain cells (neurons) through a process called neurogenesis.
  • Release even more neurotransmitters that make the brain function at a higher level
  • Improve vascularity, that is, grow new blood vessels to support brain activity and health
  • Exhibit plasticity, which is the adaptation of the brain to new stimulus or overcoming injuries

Exercise is a powerful brain medicine that's better than any supplement for persons of all ages. During and after exercise, BDNF and its companion chemicals literally saturates the brain, and the effects are seen all the way from the grey and white cortex, where high level thinking occurs, down into the hippocampus, the repository of our memories. Exercise:
  • Enables young and old learn and retain information better
  • Blocks age-related degenerative diseases
  • Reduces stress, ADHD, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addictions
These are audacious claims to make, but more and more research proves it's true. Weights and running shoes build your IQ. As yet, there's no definitive evidence if aerobic or resistance exercise is superior. Both seem to have similar positive effects.

This TOJ is living proof that exercise sharpens the brain. After watching IBM's Watson computer easily defeat some of the top players on the TV game show Jeopardy, I went out for a run and came up with a brilliant idea to prove the superior intelligence of humans - just unplug that damn computer.

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