All of the evidence points in one direction: Physical activity is cognitive candy. Civilization, while giving us such seemingly forward advances as modern medicine and spatulas, also has had a nasty side effect. It gives us more opportunities to sit on our butts. Whether learning or working, we gradually quit exercising the way our ancestors did. Recall that our evolutionary ancestors were used to walking up to 12 miles per day. This means that our brains were supported
for most of our evolutionary history by Olympic-caliber bodies. We were not sitting in a classroom for eight hours at a stretch. We were not sitting in a cubicle for eight hours at a stretch. If we sat around the Serengeti for eight hours—heck, for eight minutes—we were usually somebody’s lunch. We haven’t had millions of years to adapt to our sedentary lifestyle. That lifestyle has hurt both our physical and mental health. There is no question we are living in an epidemic of fatness, a point I will not belabor here. The benefits of exercise seem nearly endless because its impact is systemwide, affecting most physiological systems. Exercise makes your muscles and bones stronger, improving your strength and balance. It helps regulate your appetite, reduces your risk for more than a dozen types of cancer, improves the immune system, changes your blood lipid profile, and buffers against the toxic effects of stress. By enriching your cardiovascular system, exercise decreases your risk
for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. When combined with the intellectual benefits exercise appears to offer, we have in our hands as close to a magic bullet for improving human health as exists in modern medicine. So I am convinced that integrating exercise into those eight hours at work or school will only make us normal.
All we have to do is move.
Want to learn more about Brain Rules and exercise? Watch the exercise video or listen to the digital audiobook on Libro.fm.