Harder, better, faster, stronger: And now, smarter

I always found it ridiculous that high schoolers who never played sports thought the football team was made up of dumb jocks especially when many players ended up at our best colleges and universities.

Where did the stereotype of the dumb jock come from?

Just watch a professional soccer game or Major League Baseball or any Olympic event and think about how much stuff the players are pouring into their brains before, during, and after the games. Ok some of these athletes might make stupid decisions off the field in their personal lives, but these have nothing to do with smarts.

So I'm not surprised to read about another study showing that exercise is good for your brain.

Yet the study published last week in the British Journal of Sport's Medicine is a little unique, I think, in that it shows that meaningful exercise as often as possible can help people over 50 improve their brain health regardless of where they are in terms of their current situation.

That means you are not a hopeless case if you still don't have an exercise regimen. What the science shows is that if you want to improve your memory, exercise can help.

But that's only one example.

The researchers saw positive results in adults over 50 who exercised between 45 - 60 minutes at moderate to vigorous intensity as many days a week as possible, including aerobic exercise, resistance - or weight - training, a combination of the two, and yoga or tai chi.

While aerobic exercise and yoga and tai chi seemed to improve cognitive abilities, as in reading, writing, learning, etc., resistance training had an impact on memory and executive functioning, or your mental skills, such as managing your time and will power and self control.

Ultimately the researchers concluded that there's enough evidence to prescribe all three forms of exercise in order to improve brain health as you age.

I came across the study as it was reported in the news while I was catching up during breakfast after taking the 6 am Precision Running class at Equinox last Tuesday. This was my first class back after injuring my hamstring (for the zillionth time) exactly 2 months ago.

As the teacher, Jill Washecka, was pumping us up, she told us about her out-of-town guests over the weekend who noticed Jill's hectic lifestyle with two small children at home. 

"What do you do for yourself?" they asked her. "For Jill?"

"I schedule my workouts," she said she told her friend.  "Just like you did this morning when you set your alarm for 5 am," she turned to us. "This is your time."

It's a total mind shift for me and perhaps others my age to consider scheduling a workout as "my time," especially when it means getting out of a warm bed before the sun comes up. We often think about our me time as shopping for a new pair of shoes, or catching up over a glass of wine with a girlfriend, or seeing a show or scheduling a massage or a manicure. Sure these are definitely great opportunities for me time.

But a running class where you're pushing yourself until your lungs burn or lifting weights until your muscles feel like jelly? Before the sun comes up?

Throughout this morning's class, Jill kept telling us to think about how great we were going to feel at the end of 50 minutes. She knew we would. I felt even better than usual because after two months of going slow, I was back at it, pushing myself to exercise vigorously. I think Jill was genuinely happy for me, too.

I'm waiting to see how much smarter I am after all of this, or how much easier it is to remember things, but for the moment, I'll take the researchers at their word and just continue to enjoy the ultimate feel-great pay off.

You know, the one that lasts all day.


Are you pathetically crazy for peanut butter?? You've got to try this banana bread snack bar and epic peanut butter frosting recipe that uses peanut butter powder. Incredible!

 See you next time!