I’ve seen more and more talk about exercise and the brain lately, and that’s a good thing. I’ve been to some great lectures by John Ratey on this topic at ADDA conferences and local coaching meetings. Now he’s published a book about it, called Spark. I haven’t read it yet, sorry John, I’m too busy reading about when to give the baby mushed up banana for the first time. But I would like to reflect on the theme and some of what I’ve heard from him before.
I think many of his points are well taken; for example, we don’t hear as much about exercise as treatment for ADHD, depression, and so forth, because there isn’t much financial gain involved in either studying or promoting it. At least not for the folks who look for financial gain here, i.e, the pharmaceutical companies. And yet, exercise can act like medications like Prozac or Ritalin. And, there are a lot of people for whom mental health and/or attention problems seem to appear only when they stop doing a lot of exercise for a long time. I believe John called it "post-marathon onset ADHD." In other words, some people’s troubles with the mind only appear following trouble with the knees.
One conclusion: this dovetails with the concept of ADHD as a set of character traits (versus a pathology). Some people simply need a WHOLE LOT of movement on a daily basis, or perhaps a continual basis. The problems arise when they start moving. So the "symptoms" are circumstantial, and not a manifestation of a disorder.
Another conclusion: we need to take exercise more seriously. For me what automatically follows is that we need to put more attention on how we manage to get that exercise. We don’t need to spend more energy thinking we ought to exercise more.
And yet another conclusion: Exercise can help. Some of us need a lot of movement and sweat and so forth, but that doesn’t leave us happy as clams. Including enough exercise is, for some of us, like eating properly; if we don’t eat properly, we don’t feel good; but eating well is not sufficient to make everything great. It is necessary, but not sufficient.
Stay tuned for: how we actually get the exercise, exercise for us inattentive folk, and other subtleties.