November 15, 2006

Study Says 3 Hours of Exercise a Week Can Bolster Memory, Intellect

Read more... Schizophrenia Biology

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that "According to a new study, the brain's long, slow decline may not be inevitable. For the first time, scientists have found something that not only halts the brain shrinkage that starts in a person's 40s, especially in regions responsible for memory and higher cognition, but actually reverses it: aerobic exercise. As little as three hours a week of brisk walking -- no Stairmaster required -- apparently increases blood flow to the brain and triggers biochemical changes that increase production of new brain neurons."

While not directly related to schizophrenia, in a discussion we had with researchers at UCSF the other week, they pointedly suggested that they suspected that good food (plenty of fresh vegetables) and regular excercise are probably very helpful in recovery for people who have schizophrenia (though long term studies confirming this remain to be done).

The Wall Street Journal story further suggested that "This is the first time anyone has shown that exercise increases brain volume in the elderly," says Dr. Kramer. "It suggests that aerobic exercise can stave off neural decline, and even roll back some normal age-related deterioration of brain structure."

The LA Times also reported on the study, noting: "So if you're a sudoku addict, try taking language lessons. Already fluent in seven tongues? Try learning the flute. Seeking new challenges may do more for your brain than sticking with the few activities you know best.

Making some friends probably wouldn't hurt either, Albert says, because socializing seems to help buffer people against mental slippage. One possible reason, she says, is that a strong social network staves off two known contributors to cognitive decline: stress and depression."

More info: Brainpower: Think upkeep (LA Times)


In the summer I go running and biking almost every day, and now that it is winter here, I only get mild exercise (lifting weights and sit ups) about twice a week. When I was running every day I could tell that my brain was much sharper and I was less stressed out. It also helped me sleep better, and I usually eat mostly fruits and veggies and find that these foods also help lower stress and help me focus.

But this has been common knowledge that exercise lowers stress and promotes neurogenesis. I've also found that drinking decaffe green tea and doing sudoku and learning to play piano have helped me stay sharp. Sometimes it gets hard though... Once I take any type of anti-psychotic I COMPLETELY lose interest in exercise and eating healthy and being social and being productive. It's like I'm dead. That's one reason I choose not to take them... They just lower my quality so much...

Posted by: Cory Schulz at November 16, 2006 10:56 PM

Being a Victim of Schizophrenia myself, I was in sad shape after 2 years of only being able to get any sleep on every third day. My pants were practically falling off me, and the skin on my belly looked wrinkled to the point of having the appearance of skin of an age greater than 100.

However, a year ago I crawled onto my treadmill, and did the best that I could despite my condition. I now do a brisk walk of 26 -> 30 miles weekly. That's 6.5 to 7.5 miles a day, four times a week. ( When I started, my best of that time, was only 2 miles a week ! )

My pants, the very same pants, are now a tight fit again. The skin on my belly looks as good as new, and my legs have good firm muscle.

And yes, the brain is ticking faster. If you can't jog, then walk. You will be amazed at what it does for you. Next summer, check out the legs on those elderly people who go for daily summer walks around the neighborhood. Their legs look better than most of those who are in their mid twenties.

Posted by: Sean at November 22, 2006 01:24 AM

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