Samantha loaned me Gretchen Reynolds’ great book, The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer. It’s a great read, filled with loads of good information about the science of fitness.
I love Chapter 8: How to Build a Better Brain. And I really like the part about “Buddha Brain.” Based on experiments with rats, it appears that running creates “a brain that [is] biochemically and molecularly calm.”
In general, the science Gretchen Reynolds cites supports the idea that exercise insulates us against stress, even against anger. It can act as an “emotional shield,” making people who engage in regular activity more resistant to stress than those who do not.”
I have found this to be true in my own life and based on the anecdotal reports from my friends and family members. If I’m feeling stressed out, I decompress immediately if I spend some time doing yoga, running, swimming, even weight training.
More importantly, it has a preventive affect too. The more I stay active, the less likely I am to succumb to stressful situations. The research shows that the real molecular biochemical changes in the brain take time. A trip to the hot yoga studio might help, but repeated activity over time will have a profound impact on mood.
Reynolds cites loads of other interesting findings in this chapter. Exercise doesn’t just make you feel better, it can actually improve cognition, lower your risk of neurological disease and memory loss, raise IQ.
If you want to be smart and keep your marbles, be in a good mood, and approach life’s stresses with the calmness of Buddha, there is a magic solution. Hit the pavement, the pool, the yoga studio, the bike, or the weight room, play tennis, kick around a soccer ball, or take to the slopes.