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A Strong, Active Body Helps Build a Strong, Active Mind

Posted Jun 03 2009 1:14pm
This week's Newsweek has a done a nice job of emphasizing and summarizing the critical part that physical exercise plays in brain fitness. It's true: whatever is good for our hearts is twice as good for our brains. Exercise helps our bodies efficiently route oxygen to our hearts and brains. I, for one, believe that the complexities of everyday exercises and sports, like walking or dancing or swimming, call on multiple cognitive and physical skills, which we keep trying to separate but are forever and crucially entwined. They should just go together, along with nutrition, as important pieces of the fitness puzzle.

I like the suggestion in the article of an "exercise snack plan": run up and down steps in your house during a TV commercial, walk around your office floor, pace when you talk on the telephone, etc. Hopefully, these will be taken as starters or supplements with ramp-ups in activity the goal.

I personally find that regular exercise enables me to sleep less, sleep better, de-stress, makes my mood more positive and balanced, and energizes me. How can all of that not be good for my brain? Nevermind the other skills needed for my dance class, for example: long-term memory of the basic routine and choreography, concentration (or I'll look like a fool), balance, rhythm, short-term memory to adapt to my partner or the teacher's instructions, hand-eye coordination, visual-spatial skills so I don't bump into the other people, deductive reasoning (what comes next in the sequence?), etc., etc. Wonderful cross-training for the mind and the body and the mind-body connection.

Of course, the danger is that folks will think physical exercise is the magic bullet for brain fitness. As the Newsweek article points out, "Having a big, gorgeous, healthy brain isn't enough, of course; it also has to be full." Yep, exercising those neurons (also called learning) once we've gone them is also a must.
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