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Altering exercise modality to benefit brain health


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An interesting article suggesting that you might be shortchanging brain health if your aerobic exercise is of the conventional type - on machines at a gym or jogging. Instead, they suggest that due to our evolutionary past, you would derive maximum brain benefits (preservation of various brain regions, increasing connections etc.) if your aerobic exercise involved cognitive and other kinds of challenges. 

I personally don't enjoy exercise, so when I jog I usually try to combine it with some distracting activity using my phone (learing a language, learning in general), or just thinking through various problems. I don't think this is what the researchers meant, rather they meant challenges and multitasking that is directly connected with the physical activity:



Anyhow, I wonder what most folks do here to maximize the efficiency of exercise time - do you combine it with anything?

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I don't necessarily enjoy exercise and the last time I entered a gym was when the office I worked at had one. But I try to get up from my desk and do something once an hour or so, be it a set of push ups, or a plank, or squats, or pull ups. I normally listen to upbeat music during exercise.

A few times a week I also hike in the hills (run some uphill portions to get my heart rate up). I sometimes listen to an audiobook while hiking, but more often simply enjoy the outdoors.

Edited by Ron Put
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I exercise for about 45 minutes six days a week on a tough elliptical cross trainer with hand motion at resistance 20 in my gym.

Concerning mental exercise:  I'm still fully employed as a Math Prof at the University of Rochester, teaching two courses per term, with a large summer break.

  --  Saul


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  • 3 weeks later...

REsistance exercise: I find it's better done alone, with concentration, trying to optimizie the muscle-mind connection (apparently, it helps to express genes favourable to hypertrophy).

Aerobic exercise: due to its tediousness, I find it useful to employ audio or visual aids to keep the mind busy (very convenient on the threadmill, stationary bike, walks and even runs). I find it that when the video is interesting, then I might go on for hours, especially if on moderate intensity. I don't do that simply because I have other things to do...

Re the OP, I find that the brain tends to optimize the neural connections in every activity, eventually making such activities as much automatic as possible. I might think of matching exercise to cognitive abilities in fight sports such as ju-jitsu, MMA and so on. But I really wouldn't practice them for the upropse of longevity... strategic team sports like American football, soccer and so on might have a significant cognitive aspect when planning and executing the team game.

Edited by mccoy
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