Aerobic exercise is the kind of exercise that has been consistently shown to trigger the growth of both brain cells and new connections between them, boosting cognitive functions. It has also been associated with lower risks of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. Is it the case that other types of physical exercise can also benefit the brain? Evidence is more limited, but a new study suggests that weight training may be a likely candidate to do so. [Read more…] about Aerobic Exercise or Weight Training to Boost Brain Function?
Children who exercise vigorously tend to have better grades. In contrast, overweight children tend to underachieve. With this in mind, Davis and her colleagues from Medical College of Georgia tested whether participating in an exercise program would help overweight children, not only physically but also mentally. Specifically, they hypothesized that the children executive functions would benefit from exercising. These functions are supported by the frontal lobes of the brain and include planning, goal setting, self-control, and inhibition.
171 children, aged 7 to 11, who were overweight and inactive participated in the study. They were randomly assigned to three groups: a low-dose group doing aerobic exercise 20 min/day, a high-dose group (40 min/day) and a no exercise control group. The exercise program lasted 13 weeks on average. [Read more…] about Exercise Improves the Cognition of Overweight Children
Here you have The 10 Most Popular Brain Fitness & Cognitive Health Books, based on book purchases by SharpBrains’ readers during 2008.
|1. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (Pear Press, March 2008)|
- Dr. John Medina, Director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University, writes an engaging and comprehensive introduction to the many daily implications of recent brain research. He wrote the article Brain Rules: science and practice for SharpBrains readers.
|2. The Beck Diet Solution: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person (Oxmoor House, March 2007)|
- Dr. Judith Beck, Director of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, connects the world of research-based cognitive therapy with a mainstream application: maintaining weight-loss. Interview notes here.
|3. The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (Viking, March 2007)|
- Dr. Norman Doidge, psychiatrist and author of this New York Times bestseller, brings us “a compelling collection of tales about the amazing abilities of the brain to rewire, readjust and relearn”. Laurie Bartels reviews the book review here.
|4. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain(Little, Brown and Company, January 2008)|
- Dr. John Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, summarizes the growing research on the brain benefits of physical exercise. Laurie Bartels puts this research in perspective here.
|5. The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning (Stylus Publishing, October 2002)|
- Dr. James Zull, Director Emeritus of the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education at Case Western Reserve University, writes a must-read for educators and lifelong learners. Interview notes here.
|6. Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves (Ballantine Books, January 2007)|
- Sharon Begley, Newsweek’ excellent science writer, provides an in-depth introduction to the research on neuroplasticity based on a Mind & Life Institute event.
|7. Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin, August 2007)|
- Prof. Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis and Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology, writes a solid book that combines a research-based synthesis of the topic as well as practical suggestions. Interview notes here.
|8. The Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes and the Civilized Mind (Oxford University Press, January 2001)|
- Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, clinical professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine, provides a fascinating perspective on the role of the frontal roles and executive functions through the lifespan. Interview notes here.
|9. The Brain Trust Program: A Scientifically Based Three-Part Plan to Improve Memory (Perigee Trade, September 2007)|
- Dr. Larry McCleary, former acting Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Denver Children’s Hospital, covers many lifestyle recommendations for brain health in this practical book. He wrote the article Brain Evolution and Health for SharpBrains.
|10. A User’s Guide to the Brain: Perception, Attention, and the Four Theaters of the Brain (Pantheon, January 2001)|
— In this book (previous to Spark), Dr. John Ratey provides a stimulating description of how the brain works. An excellent Brain 101 book to anyone new to the field.
Dr. Arthur Kramer is a Professor in the University of Illinois Department of Psychology, the Campus Neuroscience Program, the Beckman Institute, and the Director of the Biomedical Imaging Center at the University of Illinois.
I am honored to interview him today.
Dr. Kramer, thank you for your time. Let’ start by trying to clarify some existing misconceptions and controversies. Based on what we know today, and your recent Nature piece (referenced below), what are the 2–3 key lifestyle habits would you suggest to a person who wants to delay Alzheimer’s symptoms and improve overall brain health?
First, Be Active. Do physical exercise. Aerobic exercise, 30 to 60 minutes per day 3 days per week, has been shown to have an impact in a variety of experiments. And you don’t need to do something strenuous: even walking has shown that effect. There are many open questions in terms of specific types of exercise, duration, magnitude of effect but, as we wrote in our recent Nature Reviews Neuroscience article, there is little doubt that leading a sedentary life is bad for our cognitive health. Cardiovascular exercise seems to have a positive effect.
Second, Maintain Lifelong Intellectual Engagement. There is abundant prospective observational research showing that doing more mentally stimulating activities reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Let me add, given all media hype, that no “brain game” in particular has been shown to have a long-term impact on Alzheimer’s or the maintenance of cognition across extended periods of time. It is too early for that-and consumers should be aware of that fact. It is true that some companies are being more science-based than others but, in my view, the consumer-oriented field is growing faster than the research is.
Ideally, combine both physical and mental stimulation along with social interactions. Why not take a good walk with friends to discuss a book? We lead very busy lives, so the more integrated and interesting activities are, the more likely we will do them.