The USA Triathlon Science Issue includes studies that show the decline, with aging, of cognitive abilities (and physical strength) especially after age 50.
Through exercise (strength or endurance), for example, the University of Eastern Finland found that with increased muscle strength that aging men and women have better cognitive abilities.
Researcher John Ratey, Havard Medical School, noticed that runners, previously with ADHD until they started running, became ADHD again after they stopped. Another great example; nine year old Michael Phelps, whose mother sought help with his ADHD, enrolled him in swimming, which helped his ADHD (he also became a pretty good swimmer!).
And, as you might have read over the past several years, moving your body sends a ton of messages to the brain. The key seems to be BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) which Ratey calls “Miracle-Gro of the brain”, that triggers the growth of cells to meet the mental demands of movement; the whole brain grows as a result, not just the parts working with movement. He says “I’m fond of saying a bout of exercise is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a litle bit of Ritalin. The pharmaceutical companies have yet to create something as effective as exercise.”
In an article from BrainHQ, “From a behavioral perspective, the same antidepressant-like effects associated with “runner’s high” found in humans is associated with a drop in stress hormones. A study from Stockholm showed that the antidepressant effect of running was also associated with more cell growth in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.”
With our increased time sitting at desks at work or in schools, with our screen-based culture, both children and grownups just don’t move around enough….children need to run and play, desk people need to get up and move around (actually about every 20 minutes). My advice, just start moving more; walk around the building, do a few squats, get your butt moving. Oh, and get your kids’ away from their screens and shoo them outdoors….doing something….ANYTHING!