As if we don’t need another reason to exercise already, here comes a doozy. It seems that Exercise is not only good for your heart, health and physique BUT exercise is also good for your brain and can in fact make you SMARTER.
A recent article in Newsweek Magazine titled “Can you Build a Better Brain”, by Sharon Begley, discusses at length the possibility of whether certain activities or consumption of certain foods will in fact make one smarter.
The National Institutes of Health evaluated dozens of claims in the search for a better brain. This evaluation compared dozens of claims about brain boosting products and activities. The result of this comparative study suggests that “cognitive enhancers are as sketchy as a Wild West poker player with a fifth ace up its sleeve”, writes Ms Begley. It seems that brain boosting claims that consuming Vitamins B6, B12 and E; beta carotene, folic acid ; and the trendy antioxidants called flavonoids are inconclusive. Further, Ms Begley writes, the evidence for increasing intelligence by consuming certain alcohols, omega 3s, or having a large social network is weak.
Bottom line, there is no “magic pill” or panacea to boost your brain power.
The article goes on to suggest that many of the individual studies that claim that certain foods and activities boost your mental capacity are in fact, just that – individual studies. “You could find individual studies concluding that one or another hype heavy intervention helps your brain, but the conclusion of any single study is more likely to be wrong than right”, writes Ms. Begley. “Only by assessing all the evidence from all the studies , as the NIH evaluation did can you get the true picture.”
However, all is not lost. The study does conclude that there is very strong evidence that 3 types of specific activities may in fact make you smarter.
Surprisingly one such activity, sure to make a mother shudder, is that certain video games show strong evidence in increasing the players mental ability. Certain complex computer based action games which involve motor control, visual search, working memory, long-term memory and decision-making can help exercise the brain. According to Mr. Art Stern of the University of Illinois who headed this study with older participants, says that after playing these types of games, “People scored better on tests of memory, motor speed, visual-spatial skills and tasks requiring cognitive flexibility.”
Another way to boost your brain is meditation. It seems that meditation can “increase the thickness of regions that control attention and process sensory signals from the outside world.” says Neuroscientist, Amishi Jha of the University of Miami. She adds that “mindfulness-based mind fitness training has shown success in enhancing mental agility and attention “by changing brain structure and function so that brain processes are more efficient, the quality associated with higher intelligence.”
Lastly, simple aerobic activities such as walking 45 minutes a day 3 times a week “improves episodic memory and executive control functions by as much as 20 %” claims Art Kramer of the University of Illinois. It seems that exercise encourages the creation of new neurons, stimulates the production of neuron fertilizers as well as neurotransmitters that carry brain signals. Mr. Kramer found in his studies that a mere “year of moderate exercise can give a 70-year-old the connectivity of a 30 yr old, improving memory, planning. dealing with ambiguity and multitasking”
OK, people. Get off your rear and start exercising. You would have to be stupid and therefore in dire need of cognitive assistance not to. Exercise because it will make you smarter and hopefully, (by following the I LOVE FOOD DIET), skinnier.
Chow for now.