Fitness Article : Running Makes you Smarter

There is a post on the New York Times about exercise making you smarter. I guess we always known people who exercise excessively as Richard-Simmons type happy and non-stop irritating or some bulgingly muscular meat-head that looks increasingly in a intellectual soliloquy with their biceps.

But way before all the hype and specialisation on fitness, the greatest thinkers were fit people as well. Socrates was a renowed and athletic warrior as well as one of the worlds greatest thinkers as was Marcus Aurelius . Arnold Schwartzenegger sure had street smarts as well as intelligence to be governor, despite his over bulked up body while the list of athletic and intelligent people go on. Do intelligent people become fit or does fitness lead to greater intelligence ? Here are parts of the article to answer your question

How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain

So, last year a team of researchers led by Justin S. Rhodes, a psychology professor at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, gathered four groups of mice and set them into four distinct living arrangements. One group lived in a world of sensual and gustatory plenty, dining on nuts, fruits and cheeses, their food occasionally dusted with cinnamon, all of it washed down with variously flavored waters. Their “beds” were colorful plastic igloos occupying one corner of the cage. Neon-hued balls, plastic tunnels, nibble-able blocks, mirrors and seesaws filled other parts of the cage. Group 2 had access to all of these pleasures, plus they had small disc-shaped running wheels in their cages. A third group’s cages held no embellishments, and they received standard, dull kibble. And the fourth group’s homes contained the running wheels but no other toys or treats.

All the animals completed a series of cognitive tests at the start of the study and were injected with a substance that allows scientists to track changes in their brain structures. Then they ran, played or, if their environment was unenriched, lolled about in their cages for several months.

Afterward, Rhodes’s team put the mice through the same cognitive tests and examined brain tissues. It turned out that the toys and tastes, no matter how stimulating, had not improved the animals’ brains.

“Only one thing had mattered,” Rhodes says, “and that’s whether they had a running wheel.” Animals that exercised, whether or not they had any other enrichments in their cages, had healthier brains and performed significantly better on cognitive tests than the other mice. Animals that didn’t run, no matter how enriched their world was otherwise, did not improve their brainpower in the complex, lasting ways that Rhodes’s team was studying. “They loved the toys,” Rhodes says, and the mice rarely ventured into the empty, quieter portions of their cages. But unless they also exercised, they did not become smarter.

Why would exercise build brainpower in ways that thinking might not? The brain, like all muscles and organs, is a tissue, and its function declines with underuse and age. Beginning in our late 20s, most of us will lose about 1 percent annually of the volume of the hippocampus, a key portion of the brain related to memory and certain types of learning.

Exercise though seems to slow or reverse the brain’s physical decay, much as it does with muscles. Although scientists thought until recently that humans were born with a certain number of brain cells and would never generate more, they now know better. In the 1990s, using a technique that marks newborn cells, researchers determined during autopsies that adult human brains contained quite a few new neurons. Fresh cells were especially prevalent in the hippocampus, indicating that neurogenesis — or the creation of new brain cells — was primarily occurring there. Even more heartening, scientists found that exercise jump-starts neurogenesis. Mice and rats that ran for a few weeks generally had about twice as many new neurons in their hippocampi as sedentary animals. Their brains, like other muscles, were bulking up.

But it was the ineffable effect that exercise had on the functioning of the newly formed neurons that was most startling. Brain cells can improve intellect only if they join the existing neural network, and many do not, instead rattling aimlessly around in the brain for a while before dying.

One way to pull neurons into the network, however, is to learn something. In a 2007 study, new brain cells in mice became looped into the animals’ neural networks if the mice learned to navigate a water maze, a task that is cognitively but not physically taxing. But these brain cells were very limited in what they could do. When the researchers studied brain activity afterward, they found that the newly wired cells fired only when the animals navigated the maze again, not when they practiced other cognitive tasks. The learning encoded in those cells did not transfer to other types of rodent thinking.

Exercise, on the other hand, seems to make neurons nimble. When researchers in a separate study had mice run, the animals’ brains readily wired many new neurons into the neural network. But those neurons didn’t fire later only during running. They also lighted up when the animals practiced cognitive skills, like exploring unfamiliar environments. In the mice, running, unlike learning, had created brain cells that could multitask.

Just how exercise remakes minds on a molecular level is not yet fully understood, but research suggests that exercise prompts increases in something called brain-derived neurotropic factor, or B.D.N.F., a substance that strengthens cells and axons, fortifies the connections among neurons and sparks neurogenesis. Scientists can’t directly study similar effects in human brains, but they have found that after workouts, most people display higher B.D.N.F. levels in their bloodstreams.

Few if any researchers think that more B.D.N.F. explains all of the brain changes associated with exercise. The full process almost certainly involves multiple complex biochemical and genetic cascades. A recent study of the brains of elderly mice, for instance, found 117 genes that were expressed differently in the brains of animals that began a program of running, compared with those that remained sedentary, and the scientists were looking at only a small portion of the many genes that might be expressed differently in the brain by exercise.

Whether any type of exercise will produce these desirable effects is another unanswered and intriguing issue. “It’s not clear if the activity has to be endurance exercise,” says the psychologist and neuroscientist Arthur F. Kramer, director of the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois and a pre-eminent expert on exercise and the brain. A limited number of studies in the past several years have found cognitive benefits among older people who lifted weights for a year and did not otherwise exercise. But most studies to date, and all animal experiments, have involved running or other aerobic activities.

Whatever the activity, though, an emerging message from the most recent science is that exercise needn’t be exhausting to be effective for the brain. When a group of 120 older men and women were assigned to walking or stretching programs for a major 2011 study, the walkers wound up with larger hippocampi after a year. Meanwhile, the stretchers lost volume to normal atrophy. The walkers also displayed higher levels of B.D.N.F. in their bloodstreams than the stretching group and performed better on cognitive tests.

In effect, the researchers concluded, the walkers had regained two years or more of hippocampal youth. Sixty-five-year-olds had achieved the brains of 63-year-olds simply by walking, which is encouraging news for anyone worried that what we’re all facing as we move into our later years is a life of slow (or not so slow) mental decline.

 

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Mind Article : Its OK to fail (But not OK to give up).

One Question if you are a parent or if you have been a kid before .

“How many times does a child need to fail at walking before you let him/her give up learning to walk ?”

How many times do your have to fail before you gave on learning to walk ?

Highly rhetorical. But ponder a while. When you were a child, at no point did your parents let you stop walking just because you failed once or a hundred times. They knew it was important that you learn to walk, and you knew it was important then. And back then, you never gave up, giving up was not an alternative.

So when it comes to something we know is innately important, we know never to give up. Because its ok if we fail, to fail is to be human, to fail is to learn to succeed. To fail is to plant seeds and stepping stones to success. Failure is feedback and learning to fail , learn and dust yourself off for a second round is being one step closer to succeeding, making success that bit sweeter.

Learning to walk is no different from learning to be fit. Its necessary in life if you want to lead a fulfilling one, and that it doesnt matter if you fail as long as you keep trying. We succeed because of the tremendous amount of satisfaction we get from sucking a little bit less each time and getting a little bit further in life.  It’s fun to fail in different ways, trying different paths and strategies until we finally discover the challenge and joy of having a fit body.

Getting in shape is no different from learning to walk – if you sucked at getting healthy last time, you dont give up on life and stop living and smoke a pack of cigarettes a day while snarfing down Big Macs. If you tried to count calories and starve yourself while running on a treadmill to get in shape and failed miserably, then try again and try something else.

The only true failure is not trying. And you would be ashamed that those who are born with lesser genetics or lesser privileges are succeeding not because they are better but because they are not afraid to fail . But like in learning how to walk, they never gave up because failure is not an alternative, and we have it in ourselves to do it.

We all have times we fail, but to truly fail is to give up. We can walk without legs but we cant walk without trying.

Mind Article : Believe in Belief

Its a tongue twister of an title , but its something quite dear to us and something we hold on to very very tightly and sometimes are willing to give up our lives for, its called belief. Have the right belief and life wont be able to knock the wind out of you. But have the wrong belief and your next half of your life might be more unbearable than it can be.

Whether you can or cant depends on you.

Why is belief important in fitness. Can you just believe yourself to fitness ? Obviously there has to be action. But belief drives motivation and motivation drives action. Riddle me this

“Which person would lose 10 kg in a year and keep it off for the next 10 years ? A person who believes he is a currently fat person trying to lose weight. Or a person who believes that he is actually out of shape and that he is not actually a fat person but someone who has gained that amount of weight from neglect and wants to do something about it. “

There are important distinctions in this, and this is not mere wordplay, if you believe you are a fat person trying to lose weight, its very likely you would put it back on because you believed that you are fat to begin with.

And all the rattle in your brain would be resisting the fitness plans that you make – wanting you to remain true to your nature, which is that of a fat person, so you would most likely give up when a twinky or Snickers Bar appears at the end of your runs or walks.

If you believe you are a person who gained an enormous amount of weight by neglect, than you are admitting to yourself that you have let neglect get the better of you. So whatever you do when you plan would be further reinforced by yourself gaining back your original identity.

You are what you believe in, and when you start planting the seeds that you can do more and believe that things are possible, then its when fitness would do its magic. Adopt the right and healthy beliefs about fitness, and realise that you are a sum of your beliefs, and beliefs come from choice, and you have much greater power in deciding what you want to be and how you turn out than you think.

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Great Post on Metabolism and Weight Gain. The KEY to weight loss.

Mind Article : Run Your Own Race

I previously read an article on something called “The Rat Park“. Its about a group of scientists doing studies about rats and their “lifestyle”. It was a famous study done in 1970 about addiction and its insidious effects.

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-to-Overcome-Fear-and-Break-Free-from-Old-Routines#ixzz1ux820iTV

“The term comes from a study conducted in 1981 by psychologist Bruce Alexander and colleagues. He noted that many addiction studies had something in common: The lab rats they used were locked in uncomfortable, isolating cages. Testing a hunch, Alexander gathered two groups of rats. For the first, he built a 200-square-foot rodent paradise called Rat Park. There a colony of white Wister rats found luxurious accommodations for all their favorite pastimes—mingling, mating, raising pups, writing articles for newspaper tabloids. The second group was housed in the traditional cages. 

Alexander offered both groups a choice of plain water or sugar water laced with morphine. Like rats in other studies, the traditionally caged animals became instant addicts. However, the residents of Rat Park tended to “just say no,” avoiding the drug-treated sugar water. Even rats that were already addicted to morphine tended to lay off the hard stuff when in Rat Park. Put them back in their cages, however, and they’d stay stoned as Deadheads.

You probably wont be a happy camper if your brain just functioned in these two areas

This draws a parallel into our lives as well, well maybe mine especially but also  a large portion of the cubicle rats that our society produces known as office workers. We all live in times when we are told to make a living, doing something as mundane and office work and told to stick it out and give our all working late hours to get that “promotion” and “pay raise” as a recognition of our efforts and talent.

It works fine if we are doing something we like and benefiting from it but like most work, we are more like cogs in a cog wheel, easily replaceable and in an competitive environment that forces us to fight hard to gain that promotion competing against others and being thrust in a stressful environment. So like the rats in the experiment, we would then be more susceptible to numbing ourselves (hopefully not with heroine) but other things, like compulsive eating, escapism by watching far to many drama serials, compulsive gaming, gambling, smoking, endless hours of face-booking to see other leading the life you want and other pointless and destructive behaviour so that we can quickly fight that sense of numbness and feeling of being “caged” that we feel at work or failing to see a point in life. Being powerless and doing things because we HAVE to and not because we CHOOSE to.

Are you running a Rat Race or your Own Race

I guess this is the crux of the rat park experiment. Do correct me if I am wrong. But its should not end this way. We all need a productive and open environment. It might not be as the author said

“A paradise called Rat Park. There a colony of white Wister rats found luxurious accommodations for all their favorite pastimes—mingling, mating, raising pups, writing articles for newspaper tabloids”

But it has to have the qualities of what we WANT instead of what we END UP WITH. The truth is that we choose our own destiny, but if we don’t exercise this power, we give up our ability to choose. There is seldom things like no choice or being forced to (which is a choice in itself, you can choose that’s why you can be forced to choose as well, but theres seldom such things as “no choice” there’s another way or there’s a way you can create).

We all have the power to choose. Thereis this phrase that jingles quite true for me, which goes “If you dont choose for yourself, people around you will make that choice for you, and it might be far from what you want”. Well meaning people might want you to follow in certain footsteps that they once were on and think that you should do it too, but they are not you and can never be you. They cant make the best choice for you (for eg, parents). You have to make you own choices and engineer your own jailbreak from a rat race and into an environment that nurtures you, with a body that you want, with people you love and respect and doing things that elevate you as a person and not denigrate yourself.

You should not simply take life at face value and be carried with the tide. Many things that are worth doing are not easy, but it far beats taking the unhappy and easy way out and numbing ourselves silly with consumerism and binge eating or drinking. Take time to build up your body, build up your mind and take some time to listen to yourself, take some time to listen to the soft but steady voice in your head that tells you most likely what you love to be doing, and engineer that escape.

Wikipedia 

rat race is a term used for an endless, self-defeating or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape while running around a maze or in a wheel. In an analogy to themodern city, many rats in a single maze expend a lot of effort running around, but ultimately achieve nothing (meaningful) either collectively or individually.

The rat race is a term often used to describe work, particularly excessive work; in general terms, if one works too much, one is in the rat race. This terminology contains implications that many people see work as a seemingly endless pursuit with little reward or purpose, albeit this is not true for many workers. For example, self-employment contributes to an increase in job satisfaction and the self-employed may experience less job related mental strain.

Body Article : Instant Abs

I saw an interesting video some time ago about this guy who was patenting instant abs. It was a novel idea, which entails selective tanning as well as a thin sheet of film to create your abs with and a tanning bed, and could probably last a week or more. Plus it looks pretty convincing to a point. I guess in this day and age, we are looking at fast ways to do things, fast ways to make money, fast ways to get fit and fast ways to “life hack” your way to happiness.

Well without further ado, this is the video and product.

Instant abs – Worth it ?

In this day and age, we live fast lives, and we usually want to attain things so fast, that we sometimes mistake the value of things as just the destination alone. Being fit is not about having a set of six packs, if it is, it would be easy and all about maintaining a reasonable amount of body fat and a ridiculous tan to get it.

But being fit is about how much we respect our body and health and how we build our discipline. The way we lead our lives are sometimes an extension of the way we treat our bodies. Whether we push it and build it with love and effort or milk it for what its worth using every device and shortcut so that we could make it look better.

Sometimes in our quest for outer beauty, we might neglect the foundation of beauty which lies only in the inside (as cliché as it may sound). We forget that the diligence, hard work and sweat and effort to nurture a strong body can build character and confidence spill over to alot of aspects of our lives as well – The same cant be said of a tan though. Instant results mean instant gratification which is holly and a pyrrhic victory. Aim for real victories in your life instead, YOU are worth it.

Mind Article : The Art and Deception of Excuses (Excuse Me for Not Being Fit)

No More Excuses

Excuses, we all have them. They are our own way of defending our actions or inaction, that usually we think we should do (And end up not doing). Nothing ever gets accomplished by excuses, and it’s a way of saying that “it’s ok” to not try. Excuses shield us from the consequences of our action and try to paint a false and perfect light of what happened so that we can come to terms with it. It is like covering up for the mess you made on the floor with a carpet, it looks better but its solves nothing and sooner or later you would have to face it one day.

An excuse is a way to give up the control you have on a situation, and give that power and blame someone else. Excuses mask the odor of our mistakes but doesn’t solve or try to address the mistakes. Excuses can sometimes be sinister, like the way people react to hideous crimes by saying that they had no choice but to do it, and that it was the “best” course of action at that time. “Collateral damage” was used as an euphemism and an excuse during wars to describe civilian causalities, or to put it in realistic terms, accidental slaughtering of the innocent.  Excuses can be used to mask great errors, but as long as we don’t come to terms with why we made the mistake we will continue making them and not learn from them.

As long as we don’t ask ourselves hard questions like “Why am I not getting fit, and making my life better ?” , “Is my job more important than my health ?”, we will never progress personally. What’s your excuse for not exercising, is it that it’s too tough (but looking back at life nothing that we achieved without trying hard for was meaningful), or that you don’t have time (Michelle Obama runs a tough fitness program while being a first lady and running many other humanitarian campaigns at the same time), or that you just don’t like it (the perfect excuse, for a life of mediocrity and unhealthiness).

We all know the importance of our own bodies and fitness, yet we do nothing about it because its seldom as urgent as the file of papers in our in try when we are at work, or that call you have to make or the email that you have to send. Maybe it’s time we examine our excuses using a microscope and see them for what they are, “comfort food” for us to wallow in our current situation because we don’t enjoy the pain of changing. Excuses are a comfortable way to self destruct, they are the voice in our head that wants us to keep where we are because we are afraid to take charge and make changes that will be beneficial to us. But take just one step and examine your excuses, find that they do not hold, take small steps towards fitness and you will find out that you could do more and expand yourself in many other ways and do more, be more.