While doing some research on exercise and its influence on brain growth, I came across some great findings in Dr. John Ratey’s book, Spark. It is now known that exercise stimulates several protein growth factors that travel through the blood into the brain and cause new brain cells to grow. You know, the ones that we were told “alcohol kills brain cells and they’ll never grow back” brain cells. The exciting part is that they spark growth in key areas of the brain controlling movement AND learning (in the hippocampus). The hippocampus is the part of the brain most susceptible to degenerative diseases such as dementia, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, and exercises’ effects have huge implications for interventions in those diseases. For the rest of us, there is also greater news. In 2007, German researchers found that people learn vocabulary words 20% faster following exercise than they did before exercise. Many schools, including my sons middle school, have implemented 20 minutes or more of moderate to high-intensity exercises first period in school, not only because academic scores are much improved, but so is behavior. In-school suspensions and bullying issues are down up to 60% in some studies. What does this tell us about exercise? It is necessary for optimum functioning, for life itself. What are you waiting for?

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.