The brain-changing benefits of exercise
Dancing. Susan and Gary Kellogg manage a dance on two Saturday evenings each month in Albuquerque. Susan told us that dancing is not only good for the body, it’s also good for the brain.
Hiking. I have hiked since I was 12 years old in Australia. My step-daughter Kim from Dallas is here in Albuquerque to hike. We went south to Socorro and hiked to find druzy crystals. You can find in stores lovely pendants and ear-rings made from druzy and reasonably priced. Yesterday we hiked to San Ysidro to find thunder-eggs, a kind of geode. Why do I hike? The freedom of a day in God’s desert, the benefit of walking, and to clear the cobwebs out of my head.
Pickleball. Pickleball is miniature tennis, played with a wiffle-ball, and I’m addicted. I’m competitive and I try to run around like a 30-year old. Two hours later, I’m tired but happy even though next day my legs are a bit stiff. But my heart doctor said, as I finished my last appointment, “Keep on playing pickleball.”
Pedaling at home. My close friend Mary Ann has had severe back problems for many years. She now has a little pedaling machine that she can work from her chair. One time recently she pedaled for over 30 minutes and was very happy with that accomplishment.
One of her heart doctors said to keep moving your body, even if you are handicapped in some ways. Move your body in as many ways as you can.
Why do all this exercise stuff? Half of the answer is well known. It keeps the blood flowing. It keeps muscles working. Your arteries stay cleaner, you feel better, and you live longer.
Wendy Suzuki. Now, along comes a neuroscientist who has discovered some new things about how physical exercise can improve your brain – focus, mood, and memory – and help protect against Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
Suzuki got a PhD in Neuroscience from U.C. San Diego in 1993. She began her faculty position at New York University in 1998.
Suzuki is best known for her extensive work studying areas in the brain critical for their ability to form and retain new long-term memories.
More recently, her work has focused on understanding how aerobic exercise can be used to improve learning, memory and higher cognitive abilities in humans.
She is also a fitness instructor.
The video here is of Suzuki giving a Ted Talk, and it’s a compelling story. Here are a few segments from the video:
00:00 What if I told you there was something that you can do right now that would have an immediate, positive benefit for your brain including your mood and your focus? And what if I told you that same thing could actually last a long time and protect your brain from different conditions like depression, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Would you do it? Yes!
I am talking about the powerful effects of physical activity. Simply moving your body, has immediate, long-lasting and protective benefits for your brain. And that can last for the rest of your life. So what I want to do today is tell you a story about how I used my deep understanding of neuroscience, as a professor of neuroscience, to essentially do an experiment on myself in which I discovered the science underlying why exercise is the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today.
02:40 But a few years ago, I did something very unusual in science. As a full professor of neural science, I decided to completely switch my research program. Because I encountered something that was so amazing, with the potential to change so many lives that I had to study it. I discovered and I experienced the brain-changing effects of exercise.
05:03 But I realized that the grant-writing was going well, because I was able to focus and maintain my attention for longer than I had before. And my long-term memory — what I was studying in my own lab — seemed to be better in me. And that’s when I put it together.
05:33 Maybe all that exercise that I had included and added to my life was changing my brain. Maybe I did an experiment on myself without even knowing it…. Better mood, better energy, better memory, better attention. And the more I learned, the more I realized how powerful exercise was. Which eventually led me to the big decision to completely shift my research focus. And so now, after several years of really focusing on this question, I’ve come to the following conclusion: that exercise is the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today for the following three reasons….
Wendy Suzuki is a charismatic speaker and her talk is captivating…. I highly recommend watching the video…. it may just change your life, no matter what your age.
Postscript: I’m grateful to John Darby Fox for sending me this video of Dr Suzuki.
BLOG TOPICS: I write in-depth blogs about a mix of topics: Science and Energy, Inspiration and Hope, Health and Hiking.
The Gray Nomad ….. The video presentation is intoxicating, and the message will invigorate your mind and body.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
[Book of Ephesians, chapter 2]
I enjoy reading your posts. I remember you enjoyed playing tennis and squash while at ORU, so I understand why you play Pickleball. Sally also enjoys it. 🙂
We just returned from an ORU Spr. Break Marine Ecology/SCUBA & snorkeling trip to Cozumel, Mexico w/ 47 people – 19 students, 25+ ORU alumni, and the rest family members (including our oldest daughter and 18 yr old grandson + Sally’s youngest brother) and an Au Sable (where I teach in July/Aug.) alum and his family. Wonderful trip w/ blessed fellowship, magnificent SCUBA diving and snorkeling, and special social time. This was my 17th trip to Coz.
Looking forward to seeing you in a little less than a month. God’s Shalom, John