Some people say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, but I've also heard 28 days. Since I'm stubborn and a slow learner, I'm giving myself a month to establish a new habit. This blog will document each month's habits. Please join me!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Daily Exercise Habit -- Days 10 & 11 -- Exercise is Good for your Brain

We've all heard that exercise can help manage diabetes, decrease blood pressure, and decrease your cancer risk.  But, it's also good for your brain.  After cruising around the internet on the Google-mobile, I found some pretty interesting benefits:

Improves Memory  A recent Dartmouth study concluded that regular exercise can improve memory. One piece of this research that was particularly interesting was that the group who had been regular exercisers and then exercised right before the memory test out performed the group of regular exercisers who didn't exercise right before the test.  My personal conclusion is that if you're studying for a test or have something you are trying to memorize, take a few minutes and exercise first.

Strengthen Brain Cells  If you spent too much of your youth killing off brain cells, you might want to see if you can strengthen or even regenerate some of them. In this study they found that mice who had been exercising regularly had more active growth in their brain cells than the sedentary group.  Cool, huh?  An article in Smart Brains says, "Through increased blood flow to the brain, phys­i­cal exer­cise trig­gers bio­chem­i­cal changes that spur neu­ro­plas­tic­ity – the pro­duc­tion of new con­nec­tions between neu­rons and even of neu­rons them­selves. Brain exer­cise then pro­tects these fledg­ling neu­rons by bathing them in a nerve growth fac­tor and form­ing func­tional con­nec­tions with neigh­bor­ing neu­rons. Dr. Gage’s work of the Salk Insti­tute for Bio­log­i­cal Stud­ies, have shown that exer­cise helps gen­er­ate new brain cells, even in the aging brain."

Improves Mood  Exercise makes you feel better.  In fact, it's been found to be a reasonable substitute for antidepressants for some patients. One theory is that exercise increases the production of  neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and seretonin.   I tend to get seasonal depression during the Fall and Winter months.  It'll be a good test to see if my mood is better this year with regular exercise.  If I can avoid those days of just wanting to hibernate, it'll be fantastic!

There are a bazillion other benefits of exercise, but these are a pretty good reason in and of themselves.

Anyway, let's talk more about me and what I've been up to.

Day 10 -- Pilates workout on TV for 15 minutes.  Ehh, it was ok.  I definitely need to work on my core strength.

Day 11 -- Walk the dog for almost an hour.  Based on the half-marathon training plan that I downloaded, I used today as an interval training day.  Basically, I'd choose a landmark that was one to two blocks ahead and walk at a much quicker pace to that point.  I did this probably 10 times during the walk.  I've done this route a lot over the last 15 years and it was a bit quicker today. Yay for intervals.

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