Sedentary Lifestyles and the Brain

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We all know that regular physical exercise is important for our health, but most of the time, the importance of this isn’t taken very seriously – in many cases we simply don’t have the motivation to be physically active (not counting the desire to lose weight or gain muscle, as these are well known and have been extensively covered). However, here I present another reason to stay physically healthy: it’s good for your brain.

A study done in Finland confirmed that aerobic activity stimulates the birth of new neurons (neurogenesis) in the hippocampus of adults which, consequently, increases the volume of the brain. Unfortunately the flipside is also true – being out of shape in your middle aged years can lead to shrinking of the brain as you get older.

A study done at Boston University arrived at the same results as the Finnish study. The American study lasted for two decades, with 1,583 participants, each around 40 years old. At the start of the experiment, the participants ran on a treadmill that measured each of their physical capabilities. Two decades later, these participants returned to carry out the same test, but were also given an MRI test. The physical capability of each person in the study was measured using their heartbeat – that is, how long it took each participant to reach the target heart rate. In this test, the scientists measured the maximum rate of oxygen metabolization by the body in a minute (abbreviated VO2); the lower the VO2, the less physically fit the person.

The results showed that people who were more out of shape in the 90s will now, two decades later, have measurably decreased brain volume. The following correlation was observed: for every 8 ml/kg/min VO2 less measured while on the treadmill, the brain ages and shrinks ONE EXTRA YEAR

Therefore, thanks to these studies, we have evidence that physical activity is important for cognitive functions throughout our lives. Even though these days find us running about faster and faster (but not physically running – that’s far less common), we need to take a small amount of time to care for our brain – and to care for our body at the same time.

Paula Monteiro
Psychologist
paulamonteirocounseling@gmail.com
+55 21 99742-7750

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Looking to the Past

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In today’s culture, with technology constantly evolving, and where every day is more rushed than the last, looking towards tomorrow is considered normal and essential. The flipside to this is that looking back to the past is considered a waste of time, or a maladaptive behavior.

But the truth is that there is a difference between wanting to live in the past, which, by the way, is very unhealthy, and just taking a look at it. Remembering the past can be an effective way to deal with tough times in the present.

First, we need to realize that without the past, there would be no present or future. For example, imagine a person who finally graduated from college and obtained their degree. Getting a diploma is an exciting moment for any student, but, the diploma wouldn’t have the same meaning if it wasn’t a result of many late nights studying for tests, exhausting work, and stress, would it? The moment is special because of the events of the past. When things are going well, or when something good happens, we can look back and see how past events we perceived as negative actually were beneficial in shaping the present. Also, remembering our past achievements can remind us that bad times in the present will pass, just as bad times in the past have come and gone.

Nostalgia also reinforces our social ties and helps to regulate our mood. We remember all the people from our past: our father, mother, teachers, friends, and co-workers; who, for better or for worse, all played a part in helping us become who we are today. Research shows that in difficult times, nostalgic people deal with their problems by finding the support of others and not being afraid to release their emotions. Furthermore, in events that are out of our control, nostalgic people are more capable of both seeing the good side of the situation, and learning from the experience

Visiting the past can teach us many things and give us the motivation we need to face today’s problems; contrary to what many people think. Making a trip in time can be a productive experience, as long as you don’t forget to come back and live in the present.

Paula Monteiro
Psychologist
paulamonteirocounseling@gmail.com
+55 21 99742-7750

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