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Moving For A Better Mind

Three older men going for a walk: proven to enhance cognition. 
Setting the record straight, here I examine the issue of staying active and how an active lifestyle can improve mood, memory function, cognitive performance and sleep quality.

Moving For A Better Mind

Think simple, not complicated.

You can add physical activity to your life by simply parking farther away from where you go shopping or when you get to work. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Parking and riding and using the Bus. Going for a short walk in the morning or the evening. Sports and recreational activities are also great ways to stay active and many activities are low impact. Casual walking, casual cycling and casual hiking are accessible to almost anyone from any age group.

Grandparents go bike riding with their grandchildren! 

How Physical Activity Boosts Mental Performance
When you are active your brain has sends out a lot of control chemicals and signals to coordinate the movements of your body. Remember that your brain is at the core of your body, it controls the function of everything in your body from your thoughts to your movements and many things we do not directly think about like digestion and hormone secretion. 

Xbox-360 Kinect is an Interactive Video Game Platform = Active
Our senses of touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing and balance are part of a extremely interesting network of nerve fibers that connect everything to our brains where we "experience" life. When we move and do complicated movement tasks our brains get a workout as well. 

A group of friends go Hiking: This is great fun and good for you! 
The brain is like a muscle in the sense that it gets stronger when we use it and weaker when we do not. Ironically when we are using our muscles, this actually requires a lot of brain power and also gives our brain a workout. The more you use your mind, the stronger the brain becomes. The more you use your body, the stronger it becomes. The more you use your body, the more your brain gets used, and the your body and mind become stronger. What a lovely feedback loop! 

In the case of advanced aging, keeping an active body and mind reduces mental decline substantially. Numerous long term studies show that elderly people who stay active have fewer heart attacks, fewer strokes, lower incidence of heart disease, lower incidence of diabetes, better memory performance, better mood, and sharper faster cognition. These studies show that active adults recover faster from sickness and handle disease like cancer much better than their inactive piers. Active people are more productive in their daily operation, and active people take far fewer sick days from work and are far more efficient when they working. 

A man commutes to work on his bicycle in a rural city! 
When you are moving around a lot doing something active your cardiovascular system increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The body does this in a controlled fashion that strengthens the hearth, arteries, vanes, blood vessels and lung tissue. Our brain is fueled by this circulating system of blood and nutrients pumping blood through blood vessels. The brain also uses our circulatory system as a means to communicate with the body using special chemicals that it manufactures; hormones and histochemicals are released by different parts of the brain into our blood stream where these signaling chemicals control the systems in our body. 

Skiing / Snowboarding is a tremendously entertaining recreation!
When we are active, this activity gives rise to more activity in the brain. One of these activities called brain growth factor induced plasticity is that which allows our brains to learn new things, store ideas, process information, record movement maps and memories.  
A young man practice playing the piano: Music is Healthy Too!
The brain is constantly rebuilding and rewiring itself. Think of how the brain has to build new modules and movement maps when we are learning to play an instrument or learning a new language. When we stay active, our brain is more active, and its is more efficient at making new connections and rebuilding structures.

Numerous long term studies now show that active school students perform better all around when compared to their inactive piers. Much of this data unfortunately comes from studying the impact that inactive lifestyles are having on children as they develop. Inactive children are more likely to become obese, they have lower test scores, decreased memory and cognitive performance, and stay sick with illnesses longer than their active piers. 

Students running as a recreational activity! 
Mood is regulated by neurotransmitters. When our brain is efficient from being activated frequently by physical activity, it is more efficient at producing and regulating neurotransmitters. It is through this mechanism that mood, learning, sleep and cognition are all improved by an active lifestyle. Have you ever experience of heard of a runners high? When we are really active, our brain releases pleasure chemicals called endorphin's that feel fantastic. Endorphin release from physical activity is associated with wild improvements in mood and perspective. People that are active feel better about themselves and better about the world around them. Active people are more readily able to adapt to changes and stressful events in life. 

A couple doing Yoga, a low impact healthy activity! 
When I was in college I frequently went for long walks during breaks in my schedule on campus. I always felt better after going for a walk. On my days off I went hiking frequently. "It feels good and its good for you" said my father long ago. This phrase often echoed through my mind when I was hiking. Its true, it does feel good to get outside and move around. Physical activity feels good because it is good for the body and mind. So get out there and move around and have fun while you are moving! 

Staying Hydrated with a Reusable Water Bottle
Make sure to stay well hydrated when you are active. The body can quickly loose a lot of water when we are working out. A reusable water bottle is a great way to have water on the go. Much less expensive that yucky tasting plastic water bottle water, you can put great quality water in your reusable bottle to stay hydrated and save money while you are at it. If you do have to use a cheap plastic water bottle, did you know that you can reuse it hundreds to thousands of times. A nicer metal water bottle will hold up better and is better for you. Plastic are know to leach plastic chemicals into water, giving the water a yucky taste. Better plastic BPA free reusable bottles are available, as are steel and aluminum bottles. Your brain and body is made mostly of water. Staying hydrated is extremely important for a healthy body and brain.

I sincerely hope this information will inspire others to live more active lifestyles. We stand to gain a lot with staying active and stand to loose nothing. Like the faith that inspires me so deeply, physical activity is another part of my life that brings me joy and enjoyment. I hope that you will come to value this information and share it with others. Peace be with you 

Sincerely, Aaron Kenneth Schwarz 

Update 1/22/2012 :
I did a casual experiment. I avoided my normal exercise for 2 weeks, the only cardio I got was building a snow pile with a shovel a few days ago. Today I resumed my hill hiking/ jogging cardio activity for 30 minutes and as sure as the sun rises, after returning, I felt this magical feeling of relaxation and calm. My mind is notably sharper (I tested myself with math/ reading). It felt good to get out for some cardio, although I was forced to walk in the road where the snow had been cleared! It was raining and the air was cold so I tool an umbrella! I proved to myself yet again that 30 minutes of cardio per day does a world of wonders! Feels good and its good for you! 

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