What’s the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today? – Exercise.

Wendy Suzuki

Wendy is Professor of Neural Science and Psychology in the Center for Neural Science at New York University. In her TED talk she asks her audience:

“What if I told you there was something that you can do right now that would have an immediate, positive benefit for your brain including your mood and your focus? …  Would you do it? Yes!”

TED Talks are short. Try Wendy’s.

What she discovered, being a Professor and all, is, of course, not entirely new. Decimus Junius Juvenalis noted in about 100 A.D. in his Satires “Mens Sana In Corpore Sano”. A Japanese corporation picked the acronym of a slight variation of the same statement, Anima Sana In Corpore Sano, for their company name, ASICS.

“A healthy, or a sound, mind in a healthy body” captures in one sentence the knowledge that physical exercise is an essential part of mental and psychological well-being. And more.

Wendy’s research shows that exercise has an immediate effect on your well-being. She says that “a single workout (…) will immediately increase levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline. That is going to increase your mood, (…) improve your ability to shift and focus attention, and that focus improvement will last (…). Studies have shown that a single workout will improve your reaction times.”

She recommends to

Her research has shown that “you not only get better focus and attention, but the volume of the hippocampus increases as well. And finally, you not only get immediate effects of mood with exercise but those last for a long time. So you get long-lasting increases in those good mood neurotransmitters.”

She says that the most transformative effect that exercise will have is its protective effects on our brain. “Think about the brain like a muscle. The more you’re working out, the bigger and stronger your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex gets.”

Wendy says that you don’t have to become a triathlete to get these effects. She believes that you should get “three to four times a week exercise minimum 30 minutes an exercise session, and you want to get aerobic exercise in. That is, get your heart rate up.”

I’ll stop here.

I think about people who need this exercise but cannnot get it without help.

We are making a small start in An Saol offering those with severe injuries the possibility to exercise. Exercise that we know contributes to having a happier life and a healthier body.

There are other possibilities to exercise. Some are all around us. We just need to keep our eyes open and grasp the opportunity when it arises. This morning, we went for a walk along the seafront and discovered several exercise gadgets set up there by Dublin Corporation for people in wheelchairs.

Absolutely amazing and well done Dublin City Corporation!

The other very important issue of concern is, of course, the ability to communicate.

In that respect, Pádraig took a big step forward. You know that he is now using a switch above his left knee to access a speech app. That’s a position that works really well. We continue to customise his communication programme to make it easier and better for him to use it, to get his motivation going. A really small change on the options to express his opinion, mood, and wishes, brought him great fun last week.

I am sure he had been waiting to be able to say this on some occasions for quite some time.

This weekend is the warmest of the summer so far. Yesterday, the highest temperature ever was measured in the North of Ireland. Many people will be on the beaches, walk in the mountains or having a barbecue in their back gardens. We had one really enjoyable afternoon and evening yesterday with friends and family.

We’ll keep exercising.

Life is good.