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  • To understand the injustice that has been done to exercise, let’s pretend were

  • back in 1995 and Nintendo is advertising the Nintendo 64.

  • When marketing, they talk solely about the technical aspects of the machine and how it

  • has a 93.7 megahertz processor compared to the Super Nintendo’s measly 3.56 megahertz

  • processor.

  • The N64 flops and the entire marketing team is fired since they failed to promote any

  • relevant information like the actual nature of the new games or even that an entire D

  • was added, making the games 3D instead of 2D.

  • Of course in reality, the Nintendo 64 did quite well.

  • This hypothetical marketing strategy is just a parallel to the poor marketing strategy

  • for exercise.

  • The sales points of exercise up until now were that it’s good for the heart and it

  • will make you lose weight.

  • First off, while these are good benefits, theyre not nearly as compelling as the

  • other benefits of exercise.

  • Good for the heartis a vague notion that’s encouraging only if you happen to

  • be older and worried about a heart attack.

  • Then, data is showing that exercise isn’t even that effective for losing weight.

  • A review of exercise intervention studies published in 2001 by Queen’s University

  • in Canada found that after 20 weeks, "the amount of exercise energy expenditure had

  • no correlation with weight loss"

  • I’m not saying that exercise doesn’t affect your body.

  • The right kind of exercise increases muscle mass and improves your insulin sensitivity,

  • setting you up to have a healthier body composition.

  • However, if you begin exercising without managing other factors like diet, you may be very discouraged

  • by poor weight loss results.

  • Does exercise work?

  • So, here are studies of exercise - as you can see when compared with no treatment, exercise

  • resulted in very small weight loss across the board.

  • Exercise does not cause weight loss.

  • What does exercise do?

  • It causes muscle gain.

  • Muscle have mitochondria, mitochondria burn energy.

  • So, exercise is the single best thing you can do for yourself, but if you think it’s

  • gonna show up on the scale, think again.”

  • In a September 2016 issue of TIME magazine, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky said thatIf there

  • were a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely

  • be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever developed.”

  • To understand what makes exercise so great, we need to understand how it affects the brain.

  • First off, what is the brain for?

  • Some may saywe have brains to think!

  • To create art and to come up with creative solutions to complex problems!” but Neuroscientist

  • Daniel Wolpert argues that is not the case.

  • We have a brain for one reason and one reason only and that’s to produce adaptable

  • and complex movement.

  • There is no other reason to have a brain.”

  • To illustrate this, Daniel uses the example of a sea squirt.

  • Early in its life, the sea squirt has a nervous system.

  • It will use this nervous system to move around and find a suitable rock to attach itself

  • to, then it will spend the rest of its life there.

  • At that point, movement is no longer a necessity for survival, so the very first thing the

  • sea squirt does is it digests its brain for energy.

  • A more relatable example is the Koala.

  • The Koala has adapted its digestive system to derive all the energy it needs from eucalyptus

  • leaves.

  • It really doesn’t need to move that much as it can just sit in the tree, eat, and watch

  • the world go by.

  • Earlier in the Koala’s evolution, it used to have a much bigger brain.

  • However, once its diet became less diverse and required less movement to survive, its

  • brain shrunk.

  • Less movement meant less brain was necessary.

  • From an evolutionary perspective, it’s the same as not wasting your money on a 4000 dollar

  • laptop if all you need to do is run some simple software like your web browser and email client.

  • What research on exercise is suggesting, and a better understanding of neurochemical mechanisms

  • is proving, is that there is a very powerful connection between the brain and movement.

  • A big brain is necessary to facilitate complex movements, and executing such movements and

  • getting your heart rate up bolsters your brain power.

  • Exercise has been shown to help people learn much more efficiently, better deal with stress,

  • and drastically reduce anxiety.

  • It improves mood to the point of lifting people people out of depression, and it strengthens

  • focus to the point that some ADHD patients elect to throw out their prescriptions.

  • And that’s not even the full list.

  • The California Department of Education has consistently shown that students with higher

  • fitness scores have higher test scores.

  • Former President Ma of Taiwan increased the occurrence of Physical Education in schools

  • nationwide from twice a week to three times a week for this reason.

  • The minister of education, science and technology in South Korea extended the school day by

  • 1 hour to add more time for PE and sports.

  • This decision was made after reading Dr. John Ratey’s bookSPARKwhich is all about

  • the brain benefits of exercising.

  • The reason the Taiwanese and South Korean school systems don’t just have students

  • study for another hour is because exercise actually primes the brain to learn faster.

  • A 2007 study showed that subjects who did high intensity exercise beforehand could learn

  • vocabulary words 20% faster than those who remained sedentary.

  • The key to this phenomenon is a protein called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, or BDNF

  • for short.

  • In order to learn something, the brain actually needs to grow and modify its cellular infrastructure

  • to allow neurons to fire more easily.

  • Researchers found thatif they sprinkled BDNF onto neurons in a petri dish, the cells

  • automatically sprouted new branches, producing the same structural growth required for learning.”

  • This impressive result had John Ratey nickname BDNF theMiracle-Gro for the brain.”

  • BDNF improves the function of neurons, encourages their growth, and strengthens and

  • protects them against the natural process of cell death.

  • ...BDNF is a crucial biological link between thought, emotions and movement.”

  • A 2013 study in the journal of sports science and medicine showed that just 20 to 40 minutes

  • of aerobic exercise increased BDNF in the blood by 32%.

  • Rather than stocking up on coffee before you sit down to study, you might want to try jogging

  • around the block instead.

  • One way to understand why exercise would trigger your brain to initiatelearning mode

  • like this is to think of your body as the world’s most intricateIF THENsystem.

  • Your body has triggers for almost every physiological process.

  • For example, IF cold THEN shiver.

  • IF hot THEN sweat.

  • Most of your body’s physiological expressions can’t be induced just by force of will,

  • certain triggers must be present.

  • [“Alexa, increase my testosterone by 50%.”

  • “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

  • ] By understanding which physiological triggers influence which physiological expressions,

  • we can start getting our brains to do what we want.

  • The reason exercise is a key trigger for all kinds of positive effects in the brain, particularly

  • learning, is because movement signals to the brain that something important is happening.

  • Maybe not in modern times, but originally, when we were moving, it was for the sake of

  • survival.

  • You move to escape a predator, to forage for food, to hunt, et cetera.

  • While moving, it’s in your best interest to learn the lay of the land so you don’t

  • get lost and can locate forageable food again.

  • You had better remember how an attacking animal moves and what path was most efficient to

  • escape so you can prevent yourself from becoming a carcass next time.

  • When youre loafing around, youre not convincing your brain that learning is necessary.

  • From your brain’s perspective, being sedentary means youre safe, nothing important is

  • happening, and it’s time to rest.

  • When you think of Arnold Schwarzenegger, you might not associate him with intelligence.

  • You might say he talks funny, and that his success only comes from him being a novelty

  • when musclebound guys were rare.

  • However, no matter how much attention your arms get you, youll need a lot of motivation,

  • learning capacity, and focus to become a bodybuilder, businessman, actor, investor, and politician.

  • By the way it wasn’t his physique that made him rich, he became a millionaire through

  • real estate before he even began acting.

  • Oh and all this while he was speaking in his second language.

  • There’s a good chance that Arnold can thank his fitness for such an impressive display

  • of focus and motivation.

  • We owe our motivations and entirewill to liveto the brain’s reward center.

  • With almost any activity we choose to do, we do it because we expect some sort of reward.

  • We strive for success in life because we expect the reward of fulfillment, we eat candy bars

  • for the rewarding taste and we do taxes for the reward of not getting audited by the IRS.

  • Without reward, our brains don’t have much reason to do anything.

  • An anti-obesity drug called Rimonabant was a tragic example of this.

  • Rimonabant is an endocannabinoid antagonist- it’s ananti-marijuanamedicine, which

  • also means it’s “anti-munchiesmedicine.

  • It gets you to stop eating by inhibiting the sense of reward from food, and unfortunately

  • everything else.

  • 20 percent of users experienced serious depression and there were several suicides.

  • Kill the reward system and you just might want to kill yourself.

  • Dopamine is a key player in the reward center.

  • Dopamine is all about motivation and attention, and is responsible for that feeling of satisfaction

  • when we accomplish something.

  • It makes you want to do things, and reassures you that that thing was worth doing.

  • So if your dopamine is not working properly, you can find it hard to get things done, because

  • youre not getting enough fulfillment to justify doing them.

  • One of the ways the ADHD drug adderall works is by mimicking the action of dopamine in

  • the reward center of the brain.

  • Adderall users can get so focused on mundane tasks and blast through their to-do lists

  • because everything becomes interesting.

  • But you don’t have to go the pharmacy to get your reward center going.

  • Studies show that exercise boosts motivation by increasing dopamine storage and triggering

  • the creation of dopamine receptors in the reward center.

  • Exercise won’t have you staying up all night in a studying frenzy like adderall, but it

  • will give you more willpower and focus to do those little things that don’t usually

  • feel rewarding.

  • Aside from its positive effects on dopamine, exercise also elevates levels of norepinephrine

  • and serotonin.

  • When these three neurotransmitters are in deficit, people become depressed.

  • In a 1999 study, James Blumenthal compared exercise to the anti-depressant Zoloft in

  • a 16 week trial.

  • They found that just thirty minutes of jogging, three times a week was just as effective as