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Sound mind in a sound body – even moderate exercise improves cognitive performance

I am very impressed by John Medina, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (Pear Press, 2008). Medina recently spoke at a client of mine, I relished his presentation, and his engaging style is matched by his thoughtful and useful book. It devotes a chapter each to what brain science can teach us about twelve ways to optimize what goes on between our ears (See my post of Aug. 20, 2006: neuro-economics.)

His first chapter explains how exercise nudges our neurons (See my post of Feb. 25, 2008: exercise jogs our brains.). For example, exercise increases blood volume in a region of the brain called the dentate gyrus, an important part of the hippocampus, which is crucial to the formation of memories. Exercise also stimulates the creation of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which keeps neurons young and healthy and encourages the formation of new cells in the brain (at 22).

According to Medina, “the gold standard appears to be aerobic exercise, 30 minutes at a clip, two or three times a week. Add a strengthening regimen and you get even more cognitive benefit.” In-house counsel don’t need to lift trucks or run ultra-marathons, but a consistent fitness program helps both above and below the neck (See my posts of Nov. 6, 2007: energy; March 26, 2008: physical appearance; and April 16, 2007: corporate health centers.).