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How Exercise Benefits Your Brain

There are a number of posts on this site related to how exercise benefits your brain, each with a different angle.  This article explains how exercise throughout childhood has been proven to shape the way our brains are wired and helps with learning and memory.

How Exercise Benefits Your Brain

Exercise is a real boon – clearing the mind, pumping in more blood and oxygen to the brain and doing much more, latest research suggests.

David Bucci, associate professor of psychology at Darmouth College, and his collaborators have identified a gene which seems to mediate the degree to which exercise benefits the brain and in mental illness too.

Bucci began his pursuit of the link between exercise and memory with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), among the commonest childhood psychological disorders, the journal Neuroscience reports.

“The notion of pumping children full of psycho-stimulants at an early age is troublesome,” Bucci cautions. “We frankly don’t know the long-term effects of administering drugs at an early age – drugs that affect the brain – so looking for alternative therapies is clearly important.”

Based on observations of ADHD children in University of Vermont summer camps, athletes or team sports players were found to respond better to behavioural interventions than more sedentary children, according to a Dartmouth statement.

Accordingly, they investigated a mechanism through which exercise seems to improve learning and memory, known as the “brain derived neurotrophic factor” (BDNF), also involved in growth of the developing brain.

The degree of BDNF expression in exercising rats correlated positively with improved memory, and exercising as an ­adolescent had longer lasting effects compared to the same duration of exercise, but done as an adult.

“The implication is that exercising during development, as your brain is growing, is changing the brain in concert with normal developmental changes, resulting in your having more permanent wiring of the brain in support of things like learning and memory,” says Bucci.

Read the original article here

When reading this article on how exercise benefits your brain, I thought it was interesting to hear David Bucci’s opinion on the unknown long-term effects drugs, namely those used to treat ADHD.  Surely anything that chemically alters the brain has got to have some kind of side effect?  Our bodies weren’t designed to be chemically altered, surely? As Sir Ken Robinson argues, perhaps children diagnosed with ADHD, simply perform better in different environments, that require for them to move, in one way or other, in order for them to think? In case you missed this short clip:



Focusing Tips For Adult ADHD Sufferers

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD or you simply struggle to focus, these focusing tips for adult ADHD sufferers are a gainful read.  I have excerpted part of an interview, conducted by Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D for The Huffington Post who is interviewing psychologist, Dr Ari Tuckman, Psy.D., MBA. He specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of children, teens, and adults with ADHD, anxiety, and depression.

Focusing Tips For Adult ADHD Sufferers

In your book More Attention, Less Deficit, your chapter on nonmedical treatment includes the phrase “pills don’t teach skills.” Could you explain what that means?

Medication is often an effective treatment for ADHD, but suddenly being better able to focus your attention doesn’t mean that you know how to prioritize your to-do list or organize your desk. The medication can set a good foundation wherein the person can do a better job of learning and applying these good habits. It’s similar to how wearing glasses doesn’t give you better driving skills, but it does enable you to use those skills more effectively.

I really liked the title of one of the subsections in Chapter 8: “I’m Only Getting Treatment to Shut You People Up”. Could you give some suggestions as to how a family member could address the possibility of ADHD with someone they love?

Speak from the perspective of what you see and how you feel that it is making the person’s life harder. Focus on the things that are important to this person (such as, “you lost your brand new cell phone”) rather than what is important to you and that you feel should be important to them (such as, getting better grades in college). It may also help to let your actions speak louder than your words, by not covering up for the person’s ADHD moments. Let them feel the pain more because that is what will give them the incentive to work on it.

What are three tips that an adult with ADHD could implement today?

  1. Get rid of some stuff that you don’t need (which is a lot more than we think). The less stuff you have, the easier it is to find what you need when you need it.
  2. Start setting alarms to remind you of important times or appointments.
  3. Get more sleep. Being tired will only make your ADHD worse.

I think anyone can make use of these focusing tips for adult ADHD sufferers. It’s interesting how medication is not necessarily regarded as the best solution for ADHD.   Medication may provide a temporary solution but never addresses the route cause.  And who wants to take medication for the rest of their lives? Surely that can’t be good for anyone.