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Young at Heart, Young at Mind

Exercise can give you ideas-literally. It can make you more creative, improve your memory and actually raise your intelligence.

Those are the results of before-and-after studies of people who went from a sedentary lifestyle into a progressive program of aerobic exercise. In fact, intelligence and memory tests showed significant changes even among hospitalized elderly patients who entered physical training programs.

Scientists tell us, too. That they've found that aerobic exercise optimizes the level of the quality they call arousal, which is related to wakefulness or alertness. Too little arousal means you feel bored, depressed. Too much makes for anxiety and restlessness.

And our old friend, regular vigorous, physical exercise, generates levels of arousal most compatible with acquiring new skills and information.

In addition, rhythmic aerobic exercise-running at a steady pace, for instance-also makes the mind more playful and creative. Scans of the brains of people while exercising show increased blood flow to the right, so-called female side of the brain-the part thought to be the site of much of our intuition and imagination. Postexercise tests of other subjects confirmed these findings. Exercise caused imaginativeness scores to jump markedly.

There's more. Aerobic workouts also improve reaction time, the time it takes your brain to tell your muscles to get to it, and thus your ability to react quickly, a hallmark of the young mind.

(From Emotional Health, by Myron Brenton and the Editors of Prevention Magazine, Pub.—Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 1985, p 57)

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