For some odd reason, when we think of internal organs, we rarely think of our brains. But that wonderful, complex mass of neurological gray matter is also well served by the oxygen-rich blood that weight-bearing exercise sends coursing through our bodies.
Exercise has been clearly linked to an overall sense of well-being, and that includes our psychological state. We just feel better about ourselves when we're fit. A regimen of weight-bearing exercises can improve all forms of mental acuity, including heightened cognitive function (attention, processing and decision making) and short-term memory, while decreasing the risk of depression. It even enhances quality of sleep, which promotes mental clarity [source: Nied].
Think about that long, brisk walk that targets the major muscles of your lower body. Ever notice how much clearer you're thinking when you finish? Dr. Leroy Hood, co-founder of the Institute for Systems Biology, a groundbreaking biotech firm in Seattle, says he does some of his best work on the road -- running.
"To solve really hard problems, I have to think about the problem from every single vantage point that I can," Hood says. "Typically, where I've done that is while running. I always like to run alone, because when I run, I think. At those times, when you're free and unhindered, and you allow yourself to think about it from many different points of view, then all of a sudden your experiences get integrated into solutions, and that's the creative moment."
Want to know more? We've got lots more information below.
- American Academy of Family Physicians. "The Exercise Habit." FamilyDoctor.org. Updated, December 2010 (May 31, 2011) http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/healthy/physical/basics/059.html
- American Academy of Orthpaedic Surgeons. "Seniors and Exercise: Starting an Exercise Program." Reviewed, February, 2008 (May 31, 2011) http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00531
- Etherington, J., and Harris, P.A. "The Effect of Weight-Bearing Exercise on Bone Mineral Density: A Study of Female Ex-Elite Athletes and the General Population." Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, Vol. 11, No. 9. 1996 (May 30, 2011)
- Fenton, Mark. Author, "The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness." Personal interview. January, 2009 (May 31, 2011)
- Harvard Women's Health Watch. "The Medical Benefits of Tai Chi." Harvard Health Publications (May 25, 2011)
- Hood, Leroy. Co-founder and president, Institute for Systems Biology. Personal interview. October, 2007 (May 29, 2011).
- Mayo Clinic. "Exercising with osteoporosis: Stay active the safe way." Oct. 6, 2010 (May 31, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/osteoporosis/HQ00643
- Mayo Clinic. "Tai Chi: Discover the many possible health benefits." Nov. 14, 2009 (May 25, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tai-chi/SA00087
- McMurdo, Marion, and Mole, Patricia. "Controlled trial of weight bearing exercise in older women in relation to bone density and falls." BMJ, Vol. 314. Feb. 22, 1997 (May 31, 2011)
- Nied, Robert, and Franklin, Barry. "Promoting and Prescribing Exercise for the Elderly." American Family Physician. February, 2002 (May 30, 2011) http://www.aafp.org/afp/2002/0201/p419.html
- ScienceDaily. "Weight-Bearing Exercise Does Not Prevent Increased Bone Turnover During Weight Loss." March 27, 2010 (May 29, 2011). http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100311123533.htm
- University of Arizona. "Bone Builders: Exercise." (May 31, 2011) http://ag.arizona.edu/maricopa/fcs/bb/exercise.html
- WebMD. "Health Benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong." Reviewed, March 6, 2011 (May 29, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/balance/health-benefits-tai-chi-qigong
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