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Exercise and Brain Activity

What are the benefits of exercise?    Studies have shown that exercise enhances mood and physical well-being.  Preliminary results from researchers at Princeton University studying the brains of rats have found that exercised rats respond more positively to stress.  Tara Parker-Pope of The New York Times reported the results of this study which showed that exercise not only stimulates the creation of new brain cells, but the new cells that were formed responded with less anxiety at stressful times.  This is a fascinating finding, even if it was done with rats, since the implication is that exercise remodels the brain and makes it more resistant to stress.  The researchers also noted that the stress-reducing changes don’t happen overnight, in fact there was a big difference in three weeks of exercise versus six weeks of exercise.  So now that we have started the New Year and have vowed to exercise for 2011, remember to stick with it and give it some time to work.  Any new behavior takes about one month to become a habit and exercise is no different.  Personally, exercise has always been my primary stress-reducer.  My dissertation from graduate school focused on the physiological and psychological benefits of exercise and the results were significant.  Exercise is probably the one activity that can produce the greatest gains in stress reduction and overall well-being.  The motivation and impetus for implementing change for many is the most difficult challenge.  The best way to make exercise a part of your life is start at a low-level and gradually increase, set a time of day to exercise, enlist a friend to exercise with, and forgive yourself when you miss.  Stick to a routine, monitor your progress, and build in a reward system.  Start today; now is the time for change.

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