Summertime & the Body Is Moving

Exercise and diet seem to be popular topics of conversation these days, probably because summer is just around the bend. The weather has turned warm and sunny, even hot on some days with high humidity. And this change in weather, along with the ending of another school year, brings out the inner exerciser in many of us. To paraphrase the Gershwins: Summertime and the Body Is (should be) Moving.

A 14-year old blogger from my school, in his June 13th blog post, wrote:

Mark is a bit of a health crazy (at least compared to me), so we decided to enter into an arrangement. For these summer months, Mark and I are going to meet and he is going to try to make me at least a little athletic. I’m optimistic, especially if I don’t make this more complicated than it needs to be.

And my 51-year old brother just this weekend told me that the recent death of Tim Russert, moderator of Meet the Press, has inspired him to try and change his eating habits. My brother was shaken by the fact that there were just seven years between their ages.

People have often talked about and made changes to their eating and exercise habits in terms of how they look or what might be good for their hearts. Rarely, though, have I heard people consider these in terms of what might be good for their brains, yet healthy eating is good for your entire body, starting at the top! You can read more about diet specifics at The Franklin Institute’s page on nourishing your brain with a healthy diet.

And while there are many folks who may choose to skip breakfast, the fact is that when you wake up in the morning your brain needs to be replenished with a fresh stock of glucose. Don’t take my word for it; you can listen to NPR’s A Better Breakfast Can Boost a Child’s Brainpower. Just this morning, as my 17 year old was heading off to his English Regents and was in no mood for breakfast, he finally succumbed to the offer of a crunchy peanut butter and blueberry jam sandwich (much to his mother’s delight 🙂 .)

NPR (National Public Radio) has two additional short pieces on the benefits of exercise. At the younger years, Exercise Helps Students in the Classroom, discusses how brain cells are strengthened by exercise. In the older years, Study: Exercise Lowers Dementia Risk, details the results of a study done on people age “65 and older who did moderate exercise had a significantly reduced risk of developing dementia.” The fascinating part of this study is that folks who had already started to show signs of decline benefitted the most from the exercise. As Eric Larson, the interviewee from the Center for Health Studies – Group Health Cooperative says:

Use it or lose it.
Use it even after you start to lose it!

There have been a number of articles written about the benefits of exercise for the brain. John Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has written the book SPARK, which is all about “the connection between exercise and the brain’s performance”. Ginger Campbell has a 2008 interview with Ratey on her Brain Science Podcast.

I’d really rather you stopped reading this post and headed outdoors to move your body! But if you need one more ounce of convincing, read through the rest of The Franklin Institute’s pages devoted to The Human Brain, particularly the Nourish and Renew sections that cover eating, exercise, and sleep.

p.s. Yes, to answer the questions some of you may be posing, I DO get out and move, especially in the summer when I kayak and swim. Our neighborhood has an outdoor pool where 72 laps is a mile. I am up to daily half-miles and am aiming for 3/4 of a mile by July and daily miles by August. Will keep you posted.

p.p.s. Happy 24th Birthday J!

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