Spark: the revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain
Are you, like me, looking for motivation to get out of bed on a cold winter’s morning and exercise? Even though I know I "should" get up and put on the running (or even ambling) shoes, I have to admit the bed wins out most mornings – but not any longer! I’ve just watched Dr John Ratey’s inspiring presentation at Mind & Its Potential 2009 on the evolutionary importance of exercise in the development of the human brain and on the incredible role moving our bodies plays in cognitive function throughout life. Who needs a personal trainer when we have Dr Ratey?! He points out that even though we know how important exercise is, as society has changed and we’ve become more sedentary we’ve forgotten where we’ve come from. As hunter-gatherers we moved an average of 16- 22 kilometers a day running around the plains and savannahs – our brains and bodies expect us to move but we’re not moving. The Institute of Medicine in the US a few years ago came up with a new diagnosis – "Sedentaryism" – with a list of conditions caused or worsened by a sedentary life. Dr Ratey quotes a study of early onset obesity and its effect on IQ – a group of 4 year old children who were morbidly obese were compared to normal weight siblings and found to have a 30 point difference in IQ. Obesity has also been associated with brain changes that lead to cognitive decline with the stigmata for Altzheimer’s disease developing in children as young as 7 and 8 years old. The good news is it takes as little as 20 minutes of exercise to have an impact on cognitive function – a study of a group of children showed a 20% rise in test scores after a short walk compared to scores before walking.
Ratey also refers to Dr Stuart Brown’s research into the importance of rough and tumble play and playing games in space such as tag, wrestling etc rather than playing board games or computer games. There’s a great clip on You Tube of Dr Brown (who will be presenting at Mind & Its Potential 2010) talking about a polar bear who overcame its hunger to play with a husky rather than eating it. http://tinyurl.com/yuog7w
For more on this fascinating research watch Dr Ratey’s presentation online by visiting the Mind & Its Potential 2010 website http://www.mindanditspotential.com.au/ and registering to view the video. Other clips include Dr Charlie Teo, Dr Bruno Cayoun and Dr Dan Siegel exploring different facets of the amazing human brain. More to come next week.