In a previous post (Exercising your brain) I listed 8 brain exercises providing novelty, variety and challenge. These exercises help maintain a healthy brain as we age. Most of these are aimed at providing a rich enviroment for brain stimulation. Only one dealt with the ned for physical exercies.
Having just listened to Episode 33 of the Brain Science Podcast I realise that more emphasis should be directed at physical exercise. This podcast is an interview with Harvard physician, Dr. John Ratey about his new book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.
The podcast explores evidence for the role of physical exercise in helping the brain. Exercise stimulates the release of a number of different neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, and helps keep these compounds balanced. Consequently exercise is very important in dealing with stress, in treating a wide range of mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder. There is also evidence that exercise improves our ability to learn and our ability to avoid the loss of mental agility associated with aging.
So, the lesson for me is that we should not see brain exercise purely as mental stimulation. Physical exercise is vital and should be maintained as we age. I may have got this right – I exercise regularly by walking and listen to stimulating music or podcasts while doing so.