Monday, April 19, 2010

Biceps for the Brain

I was listening to NPR's Fresh Air the other day when picking my friend up from the airport.  There were no kids in the car so I had a chance to focus on something.  They were discussing the surprising strengths of the middle ages brain.  A woman named Barbara Strauch was on.  She is The Times’s health editor and her book “The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain” came out this month.  The entire interview was really interesting, but what I picked up on was the benefit of exercise and brain aging. 

Fitness training actually slows the age-related shrinkage of the frontal cortex, which is important for executive function.  "Executive function" is the set of abilities that allows you to select behavior that’s appropriate to the situation, inhibit inappropriate behavior and focus on the job at hand in spite of distractions.   Clearly I've already lost some executive function...

Executive function starts to decline when people reach their 70s. But elderly people who have been athletic all their lives have much better executive function than sedentary people of the same age. This relationship might occur because people who are healthier tend to be more active, but that’s not the whole story. When inactive people get more exercise, even starting in their 70s, their executive function improves, as shown in a recent meta-analysis of 18 studies. One effective training program involves just 30 to 60 minutes of fast walking several times a week.  Sandra Aamodt,  "Exercise on the Brain"- New York Times

Exercise is also associated with reduced risk of dementia in late life.  So lace up your shoes now!  30 minutes of walk is better than nothing.  I know I tend to think that if I can't devout 60 mins of intense cardio to my workout- then it's worth nothing.  First, that's not true.  Second, that's stupid.  So, I've tried to work this into my every day routine.  On my non bootcamp days I strive to get some activity in.  The other day I had an hour before needing to be showered and heading out.  So I got on the trampoline with the kids and jumped my heart out.  Sure, I may have pissed my pants, but I burned 250 cals!  And it was fun.  The kids and I got some good time together and we were active.  Ameila and I even did hand stands along the fence in our backyard.  Mother-daughter shoulder work!

So go out and get your move on.  Do it.  Even if you have 20 mins.  Just do it.  You'll be so much better for it.  It's not all about fat loss and toning.  It's about over all health. 

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monica said...

Seriously, my new favorite blog.

Jen Gordon said...

Thanks Monica! ;)

Lindsey Elizabeth Burke said...

hilarious (about the jumping thing). Interesting about the exercising thing/brain. Love it!

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