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Train Your Brain With Exercise

Not only is exercise smart for your heart and weight, but it can make you smarter and better at what you do.

Effects of Exercise on Depression continued...

 

A well-known study was done at Duke University involving 150 people 50 or older who had been diagnosed with depression. They were divided into three groups and given either exercise as a treatment for four months, the antidepressant drug Zoloft, or a combination of the two.

 

At the end of the four months, all three groups felt better. But the researchers didn't leave it there. They checked again in six months, and the exercise group had relapsed at significantly lower rates than the Zoloft or combination groups. In fact, the scientists felt that giving the Zoloft along with the exercise undermined the effects of the exercise, saying the combination group might have preferred to feel they had worked for their improvement rather than having to take a pill.

 

This doesn't mean, the researcher said, that exercise is a cureall for every case of depression. Seeking out the study showed motivation, and motivation can be hard to come by when you're depressed.

 

Bipolar disorder also does not seem to respond as well to exercise. On the other hand, anxiety disorders sometimes respond even more quickly.

If You Want to Try Exercise as a Brain Trainer

Single bouts of exercise can reduce anxiety for several hours afterward, although there may be a lag time before the good feeling sets in if exercise is too intense (good news for those who find fanatical, prolonged, "check your pulse" exercise unappealing).

 

Therefore, low to moderate forms of exercise are recommended for brain training. Ratey recommends 8 to 12 minutes a day of sweating and breathing-hard exercise (60% of maximum heart rate) for brain training.

 

Anderson says a minimum would be 30 minutes of moderate exercise, walking, hiking, or swimming, three times a week. Half an hour to an hour, four to five times a week would be even better. For those who want to be REALLY on the ball, 90 minutes five to six times a week would not be out of line, she says.

 

Anderson recommends two sessions a day for this purpose, rather than one big heaving workout. "Swim for 20 minutes in the morning, then walk at night," she advises. "Right after hard, intense exercise, you may not be as acute. Overtraining can set off enzymes that can lead to fatigue, which is the enemy of alertness."

 

Anderson also says the type of exercise you select depends on your personality. It may be the opposite of what you'd expect. "If you're a 32-year-old male, work 70 hours a week, play ball twice on the weekend and jog daily," she says, "you may need to do some yoga to improve your mental acuity." Some coaches, she points, out actually have to get people to relax to find their "edge." Meditation can also be a great complement to exercise, she adds. Then: "Do what you enjoy. That's important."

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