Exercise is inextricably tied to brain health. But you probably already knew that – and it’s of course why you work out religiously.
The textbook I use in my neuroscience for freshmen class is John Ratey’s Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain , which opens with what has happened at schools that adopted new phys. ed. programs, namely better grades and fewer disciplinary problems. Ratey also includes a chapter on aging, where he makes the point that walking just an hour and a half a week can make a difference in how your aging brain performs. It all has to do with how exercise causes the release of the peptide ANP, Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) and other substances that do things like keep the capillaries in your brain enlarged, help your brain cells grow more connecting points (dendrites) and so on.
To be honest, I probably wouldn’t work out the way that I do if I hadn’t been diagnosed with diabetes over ten years ago. My latest A1C was 6.3, largely because of exercise and medication (but no insulin). However, if you’re not exercising I suggest reading Gretchen Reynolds’ NY Times piece “The Super-Short Workout and Other Fitness Trends”. If you’re exercise-averse, it opens with the very promising line, “The big story in exercise science this year was the super-short workout.”
If you’re willing to ratchet up your effort, you can benefit from a workout that will only take seven minutes to complete – Reynolds even includes a link to a one-minute workout, if that’s all you can manage. (To be truthful, you have to put in “three 20-second intervals of very hard exercise” but this leads “to robust improvements in the endurance and health of the study’s overweight, out-of-shape volunteers.”)
I also think you should click on Reynolds’ article because of all the links to other Times’ articles that she includes, ones which explain exercise’s role in combating age-related CRS (Can’t Remember Stuff), vision loss and more, while enhancing creativity and improving how our DNA works and more. You can even download a phone app to guide you through the workout.
Now the only excuse you have for not exercising is that you have to first read Reynolds’ article.