Notes Psychology

Rule 1: Exercise Boosts Brain Power (Brain Rules)

Jack La Lanne was born in 1914. “Jumping Jacks” are named after him, and he invented the first cable-fastened pulleys, and first leg-machines, and even the first weight selectors – all necessities of the modern gym. What’s most impressive about him isn’t even his muscles, but his mind. He is mentally alert, humorous, and lightning fast.

“I tell people I can’t afford to die. It will wreck my image!” he once exclaimed to Larry King. He regularly rails at the camera: “Why am I so strong? Do you know how many calories are in butter and cheese and ice cream? Would you get your dog up in the morning for a cup of coffee and a doughnut?” He claims he hasn’t had dessert since 1929.

There is a strong relationship between exercise and mental alertness.

One of the few undisputed things about our evolutionary history is: we moved a lot.

Men walked 10-20 km’s a day, while women walked around half that amount.

Every mental test possible confirmed that a lifetime of exercise resulted in an astonishing elevation in cognitive performance – compared with those who are sedentary. Exercisers are better at long-term memory, reasoning, attention, problem-solving and fluid intelligence tasks.

When couch potatoes exercised, their brain power increased. Elderly people who exercised, even in small amounts, improved their cognitive performance. The risk for dementia is cut in half if you are physically active, and so is Alzheimer’s disease (by 60%). Exercising only twice a week can have a benefit, but 20 minutes of aerobic exercise per day improves results by a long way.

It isn’t only the elderly who benefit from exercise. While there are not as many studies of the effects of exercise on younger people, we know that low levels of physical activity is associated with poor cognitive performance – this finding has been reported in several countries.

The brain makes up 2 percent of the body’s weight, but consumes 20 percent of its total energy – 10 times more than expected. When it is fully working, it uses more energy per unit of tissue weight than a fully exercising quadricep. If your brain activates more than 2 percent of its neurons at the same time, it consumes so much glucose that you will faint.

The brain needs a lot of glucose and generates a lot of toxic waste.

McAdam was a Scottish engineer who helped revolutionize the British economy – he lived there in the early 1800’s. He conceived the idea of raising the level of the roads using layers of rock and gravel. This made roads more stable, less muddy, and less prone to floods. Other countries adopted this innovation, and eventually after the process of “macadamization” became ubiquitous, people got better access to each other’s goods and services. Transportation improved, trade improved and people got richer.

McAdam changed the way things moved, and this changed the way we lived. Exercise does the same thing. It increases the roads in your body (the blood vessels) – it does not give you food and oxygen but makes your body more efficient. When you exercise, there is more blood flow to your body’s tissues – since nitric oxide (a powerful flow-regulating molecule) is produced.

The effect of this is better waste disposal and food distribution. The same happens with your brain. Exercises increases blood volume in a region of the brain called the dentate gyrus – a vital part of the hippocampus (responsible for memory formation). It also increases a growth factor, called BDNF. This protein keeps existing neurons young and healthy and promotes neurogenesis (the formation of new brain cells).

Physical activity is cognitive candy.

Brain Rules (Updated and Expanded): 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and SchoolRule 1: Exercise Boosts Brain Power (Brain Rules) 1

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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