Thursday 12-1-2016


WOD:12 Minute AMRAP of:
8 Power Cleans (115/85)
8 T2B
8 Hand-release Push-ups

Physical Fitness Leads to Mental Fitness

Researchers explore how exercise affects blood flow to the brain, suggesting it is a cure for a mental block.

Nov. 14, 2016 12:47 p.m. ET

It’s hard to separate a healthy body from a healthy mind.

Researchers looked at the interrelationship between physical fitness and brain health in a 2013 study led Jill Barnes, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and chair of the 2017 World Congress on Exercise and the Brain. It evaluated the brains of nonathletes who were either sedentary or recreationally active, and measured how reactive their brain blood vessels were to a stimulus.

“Our results show that fitness in older adults was associated with reactivity of the blood vessels in the brain,” says Dr. Barnes. “Our working hypothesis is that people with higher fitness have enhanced blood flow to their brain.”

“Activities that engage the brain and increase blood flow to the brain make all measures of attention better,” says John Ratey, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of the 2008 book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.” The best exercise for the brain is whatever gets the heart rate up, he says.

Especially beneficial are forms of exercise that combine physical activity with coordination challenges, such as dribbling a soccer ball while navigating through opponents. “The more brain cells we use, the more the brain becomes trained to anticipate what’s next,” Dr. Ratey says. “Dance, gymnastics, jump rope, martial arts, surfing, soccer all really turn on the brain.”

People who work at sedentary jobs and struggle with writer’s block or problem solving can benefit from simply walking over to speak with a colleague instead of emailing, or walking up and down stairs while focusing on raising the heart rate and breathing steadily, he says.

—Jen Murphy

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