March 21, 2016

Hey good news – I made it downstairs today. Yesterday I got pretty bored being sick (you may have noticed). I’m still on the iffy side, but man I’m going to push it. At least long enough to find something more entertaining than random tv at the library.

It’s still unclear to me if it’s a good idea to go out for my walk this morning. My body isn’t feeling very strong. Although I do remember reading somewhere that when you’re sick, if you’re physically able to, you should exercise. It’s supposed to help. That’s something I never knew about exercise – it’s good for you in so many ways beyond just heart health or trying to keep a few pounds away. I feel like that’s the way I was taught to understand exercise – keep your heart healthy so it’ll keep beating. And it’ll tone your body. It’s good for you! Ready go.

Eh…no thanks. I’m feeling pretty heart healthy and I’ve got other more pressing things to worry about than a toned body right now. Like sleeping, and laundry and making (or avoiding making) dinner. Have I mentioned I have four kids?

But. Getting interested in brain science led me to read about the actual effects exercise has on the body. Specifically aerobic exercise. Getting your heart up and pumping will lead to better heart health, it’s true. It will also make you smarter. And happier, and more relaxed, and more creative, and more ready to tackle the world.

About 30 minutes of aerobic exercise triggers all sorts of things in your brain. It creates new neurons (brain cells). For a long time people thought you were born with as many brain cells as you were going to have. Once you took your first breath, they started dying and that’s all there was to it. Now, thankfully, we have more hope for ourselves.

It’s a little complicated, so I’ll leave it at aerobic exercise creates new brain cells, makes it easier for them to connect, and makes existing connections stronger. It’s a little like putting fertilizer on your garden. Everything benefits.

Aerobic exercise also triggers your brain to be more receptive to things like dopamine and serotonin. We’ve all heard of those – they make our brains, and therefore us, happier. It makes us more resistant to stress, in the same way that a vaccine makes our bodies more resistant to diseases.

These are things that will get me up and going. Well, truthfully, mostly just the new brain cells bit. I feel pretty happy most of the time – I’m good with keeping that knowledge in my back pocket for the times when I’m feeling down. That’s a rationale that allows me to hit the snooze button. And I don’t really deal with a lot of stress at this point, so again, snooze button wins.

But, new brain cells? The ability to remember better and more and make my brain work better? Yes, please. Tell me it’ll make me smarter and I’ll wake up before my alarm even goes off.

I’ve talked myself into it. Off for a quick, heart pumping, brain cell producing walk. See you tomorrow.

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