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exercise
& the brain
in the brain, which is what many of our psychiatric drugs are poster boy for that is swimmer Michael Phelps. He was
designed to do. But you do it naturally, and eventually you diagnosed at the age of nine and was on medicine for a while,
build up stores of these chemicals, and receptors for them, but it only helped a little bit. He started to swim at the age of
which change the brain so it’s more ready to withstand the 10 and, by the time he was 11, he was swimming three hours a
slings and arrows of life. day and was taken off medication. He’s never taken them since.
You say people became less anxious. What’s the science behind all this?
Does exercise treat anxiety? There are many wonderful things released when you
Anxiety and stress is the most important chapter in the book. exercise. It would take a long time to explain it all, but one
It looks at how exercise reduces stress on many different levels, such thing is a protein called BDNF (brain-derived
and how it affects the brain’s response to stress – its ability to neurotrophic factor), which has a lot to do with mood and
cope with it rather than over-reacting. If our nerve cells learning and preserving the cells. I call it ‘Miracle-Gro’ or ‘brain
become more resilient, our brain does too, meaning that we’re fertiliser’, as it enhances brain function by encouraging the
able to withstand more stress. We now have a tremendous growth of connections between brain cells.
amount of science showing how exercise does this on many, Also, although you don’t release much human growth
many different levels – it’s quite miraculous what happens. hormone when you’re older – it decreases after adolescence –
when you do a couple of 30-second intervals of very, very
You have a lot of experience in ADD – does intense exercise, you release human growth hormone, as well
exercise help this too? as nitrous oxide which helps make the arteries young again.
Yes, there’s a whole chapter on addiction and attention deficit We also know that fat content in the body negatively correlates
disorder. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I got so interested in with cognitive performance, and a lot of studies are now showing
exercise: so many of the people I saw used exercise to help that obesity really begins to kill brain cells, particularly in children
regulate their attention disorder, and if they stopped exercising and older adults. In fact, many of the people working on
they got much worse. Some people were even able to stay off Alzheimer’s disease are calling it ‘Type 3 diabetes’, because it’s so
medicine if they got into a very rigid exercise programme. The related to our sedentary lives and our overfed state.
Exercise has been
shown to delay
the decline of
cognitive function
by 10 to 15 years
Short, sharp bursts The brain benefi ts most from high-intensity exercise, such as sprinting in 30-second intervals
44 Read Health Club Management online july 2009 © cybertrek 2009
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