Run yourself smarter: How exercise boosts your brain

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ANYONE hoping for a quiet doze during John Ratey’s speech would have been disappointed. Addressing 1100 of the world’s leading educators, he invited them to join him in a spot of exercise. “We ran in place for 20 seconds, then rested for 10 seconds, then repeated this four more times,” says Ratey.

This might seem an odd approach for a psychiatrist speaking at an education conference. But Ratey, who is based at Harvard Medical School, knew that getting the crowd to limber up before his speech was in his own interests – it would make them more alert and might even help them retain more of what they were about to hear. “It got the whole group ready to listen,” he says. It was also the perfect introduction for a keynote speech on the ways that we can all use our bodies to improve our minds.

It has long been accepted that exercise cuts the risk of getting heart disease, and recent studies suggest a raft of more general benefits, such as reducing the risk of certain types of cancer and even preventing the onset of type II diabetes. Now it seems that gym junkies can also expect a boost in brain power.

Read more: “Fit for thinking: The best brain boosters“

This is not just the vague glow of well-being that is suggested by sayings such as “a sound mind lives in a healthy body”. Instead, Ratey and others are finding that fitness has a profound long-term influence on a wide range of cognitive abilities that shape your IQ. …

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