Tag Archives: Brain

Ways To Exercise Your Body and Mind

Jenna can burn 300 calories per hour on the elliptical trainer and 530 calories per hour on the stair master at moderate intensity. If she works on the elliptical for 45 minutes and on the stair master for one and a half hours, how long will it take her to burn the calories in a Boston Cream Donut?

While most of us know that exercise is smart for our bodies, we don’t always think of the ways exercise benefits our mind. Maybe we don’t need to use the Pythagorean theorem to determine the distance between our bodies and the floor when we do a push-up, but it is important to acknowledge the positive effects that push-up may be having on our mental well-being. Here are some ways to do just that.

Brain-exercise link

The Brain-Exercise Link
John J. Ratey MD and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School compares the effects of exercise to “taking a little Prozac or a little Ritalin at just the right moment,” adding, “(Exercise) affects mood, vitality, alertness, and feelings of well-being.”

In fact, MEd Stephen C. Putnam took up canoeing as a way to combat adult ADHD and wrote “Nature’s Ritalin for the Marathon Mind,” a book documenting the benefits of exercise on brain disorders. He cites one study involving children who ran around for 15 to 45 minutes before school and found them to exhibit calm behavior for two to four hours after the exercise, cutting unruly behavior by half.

How Does Exercise Train the Brian
According to Christin Anderson, MS, exercise effects places in the nervous system causing it to send out pleasure chemicals like dopamine and serotonin which leading to happiness and calmness. She says, “When one exercises, one can think more clearly, perform better, and raise morale. This is pure science-stimulate your nervous system and function at a higher level.”

Exercise and Depression
A study cited in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, tested 80 young female and male volunteers for mood and depression. The 52 that were found to be depressed before the exercise reported a decrease in fatigue, anger, and tension and an increase in vigor following the workout.

Another study done at Duke University compared the effects of exercise with antidepressant drugs. The study involved 150 people, 50 of whom had been diagnosed with depression. These people were divided into three groups, one of which was given the antidepressant, Zoloft, another of which were treated with exercise, and the third of which was given a combination of the two. Results found that while all three experienced short-term improvement, the exercise group relapsed at lower rates than the Zoloft and combination groups. in fact, scientists even felt that the Zoloft may have undermined the effects of the exercise, and the combination group may have faired better without the pill.

Exercise as a Brain Trainer
Do you want to try and use exercise to train your brain? If so, try doing low to moderate forms of exercise, as more intense exercise may have less immediate results. Ratey suggests 8 to 12 minutes of perspiration and heavy breathing activity per day for training the mind.

Anderson recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise such as swimming or walking three times a week. “Swim for 20 minutes in the morning, then walk at night,” she advises. “Right after hard, intense exercise, you may not be as acute. Overtraining can set off enzymes that can lead to fatigue, which is the enemy of alertness.” She also cites yoga as a way to improve mental acuity and meditation as an ideal complement to physical activity.

Are you feeling the mental burn? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Let us know how you keep your mind and body fit.

Resveratrol and Brain Health

Woman having red wine

What would you think if you were told that your evening glass of wine could help your memory stay keen as you age? As it happens, there are hypotheses circulating suggesting that resveratrol, an antioxidant found in the skin of red grapes that’s abundant in red wine and grape juice, might be able to keep your brain healthy even as you age. Of course, caution and healthy skepticism are always valuable boons when dealing with anything that sounds like it might be too good to be true, so let’s examine these ideas carefully.

Claims
The purported benefits of resveratrol for the brain tend to revolve around improvement of memory, or at the very least, prevention of memory degradation. More specifically, this would mean that regular consumption of resveratrol might help one create, retain, and recall memories better. Some claims also tout resveratrol as helping general cognitive processing and function, meaning that it might help you process information faster and have clearer and sharper thoughts in general (cut away mental “fog,” so to speak).

Studies
There have actually been a couple clinical studies done on this phenomenon, and while further testing is necessary to confirm that resveratrol makes for an effective treatment or supplemental treatment, the results are promising. Trials done on both animals and human volunteers indicate that resveratrol might be able to improve memory retention and function. Evidence supporting resveratrol helping with generalized cognitive function and processing, however, has scant anecdotal evidence at best; it certainly might help, but we don’t know for sure yet and won’t know without further studies.

The Takeaway
In short, there’s enough evidence supporting resveratrol having at least a couple beneficial effects on long term health of the brain, so while we don’t have the full picture just yet, we know enough to say that at worst, it’s harmless and might only help a little, and at best, it might help a lot. So don’t treat regular consumption of resveratrol as a cure-all or stop seeing your doctor (please, please keep going to your doctor appointments and keeping them up to date on everything that concerns your health), but go ahead and sip that red wine, and toast to your good health.

Tips and Tricks
Remember, of course, that you should still moderate alcohol consumption, even if it is red wine you’re drinking. A good habit is to limit yourself to one drink a day on an average day, only exceeding this on special occasions and social outings (ideally no more than once a week, and still only 2-4 drinks in that case).

Further, you don’t actually need to consume alcohol to get antioxidants, so if you’re trying to cut back or recovering from an addiction, never fear. Red grape juice, pomegranate juice, and dark chocolate are just a few good non-alcoholic sources of antioxidants. In general, dark, leafy greens and especially dark fruits are your best bets.