On October 15, 2009 my first granddaughter was born. I went to visit them to meet the baby and see the whole family. I watched over and over again how the baby in the crib was always moving its little hands, arms and legs. The baby did not need to learn that physical exercise is important for health, but responds he spontaneously with physical movement to its God-given life.
A child who barely moves is probably emotionally or physically sick. Normally, babies and children are always in movement. Of course, some are exaggerated and impulsive, but the normal thing is to move your body. All human physiology is made up of movements, in cells in genes, in circulation. Movement is life. It is not possible to talk about health without regular systematic physical exercise, not only on weekends, sometimes with those competitive sports that generate adrenaline and cortisol. This is the first and main reason why I go for a walk; it’s not because of physical health, but because of mental and spiritual health, because I understand that exercising my brain will work better, and that’s what I want, to discern spiritual things and the purpose of life more clearly.
A 19th century author wrote the following statement:
Right physical habits promote mental superiority. 1)Ellen White. Mind, Character and Personality Volume 2, p. 443
And she also wrote this:
There is an intimate relation between the mind and the body, and in order to reach a high standard of moral and intellectual attainment the laws that control our physical being must be heeded. To secure a strong, well-balanced character, both the mental and the physical powers must be exercised and developed.2)Ellen White. Our Father Cares, p.326
People often say that if you intend to start an exercise program, you should first see a doctor, usually a cardiologist, to see if you are cleared for this activity. This is prudent. However, a medical colleague once commented to me about what he had read in a scientific journal, which went something like this: “If a person decides not to exercise, then he will have to see a doctor.”
In the Journal of Applied Physiology of November 18, 2008, the article entitled: “Exercise, the Brain’s Fountain of Youth”, suggests that daily physical exercise keeps the brain young, and the recommendation is not to take too long to start to practice them. The earlier you start in your life, the better for your whole body and your brain. The researchers found that if a person takes a long time to start an exercise program, they run the risk of not having as many benefits, because as they age, the process of the brain creating new cells, which we call neuroplasticity, slows down, and as a consequence, memory and learning impairment occurs sooner.
But can age-related mental decline be reversed with exercise? Scientists trained mice to run on exercise wheels at 70% of their aerobic capacity every day over a five-week period. The mice started running at the age of 8 months, which is the beginning of the ripe age for a rat of that breed, or at the age of 12 months, which is the middle of the old age of the rats. Those who exercised every day had two and a half times more production of new brain cells called neurons than those who didn’t exercise. And these new neurons, the new nerve cells, integrated with the existing brain network. The researchers also concluded that treadmill exercise not only increases the quantity but also strengthens the quality of the new neurons. Rats that started exercising in mature age had better results compared to those that started at old age.
In another study, conducted by Feraz Rahman and colleagues, from the University of North Carolina, carried out with 12 healthy people aged between 60 and 80 years, they observed that regular exercise is associated with an increase in the total number of blood vessels in the brain, with an increase in blood flow in the main cerebral arteries. This would benefit areas that control functions such as consciousness, memory, emotional response and language. Assessing MRI images, experts found that those who for ten years or more had exercised about three hours a week in aerobic activity had the highest number of small vessels – 150 versus 100 for sedentary ones, and that they had the greatest blood flow in the brain.
A study presented at the 10th National Conference on Child Psychological Health in Gainesville, FL, in April 2006 and published in a journal of Pediatrics, evaluated 208 overweight and sedentary children aged 7-11 years. Those who started to exercise after class, had lower scores on a scale about anger, in addition to improved physical conditioning. The authors emphasize that physical exercise can improve mood and cognitive function, allowing children to have more self-control. So, you can see once again how important exercise is for your brain. So get going!
In general, people say: “Oh okay. Now that I’ve learned it is important, I’ll start on Monday.” No! get started today; start little by little. You are very sedentary and when you start you will feel pain: “Oh, I went for a walk yesterday and now I am in pain; it’s better to stop.” No, pain is a sign that your body is in need of training your muscles, it is in need of physical activity. Don’t get heavy in the beginning, until you can develop that aerobic, muscular exercise capacity, remembering: Physical exercise is very important for our brain, for cerebral circulation, for reasoning. It helps to learn to deal with emotions, because it’s activating brain areas that have to do with mood, with cognition. This is going to be important for your mental health.
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Dr. Cesar Vasconcellos de Souza is working as a psychiatrist and international speaker. He is author of 3 books, columnist of the health magazine “Vida e Saúde” for 25 years, and has a regular program on the “Novo Tempo” TV channel.