How Exercise Counters Alzheimer's and Depression

Drs. John Ratey and Michael Merzenich discuss the benefits of physical and brain exercise on brain health. 

By Kelley Forrester - 'Larry King Now'

Recently Dr. John Ratey and Dr. Michael Merzenich stopped by the studio to talk to Larry King about brain health. 

Dr. Ratey said that exercise is important to retain brain health. When you exercise, your brain is more active than when you're sedentary. "You use more brain cells exercising than in any other human activity." 

Not only is exercise good for slowing down brain aging, but it can also assist people with depression. 

Ratey mentioned Hippocrates' ideology that the treatment for depression was to walk. Today, there are studies that show "exercise is as good as anti-depressants in treating some depressions," Ratey said. 

According to SparkingLife - Ratey's website, physical exercise increases the body's dopamine levels which effect mood and motivation. Exercise also releases endorphins which promote a positive feeling of safety. So exercising on a regular basis can make you feel good about yourself. 

Depression is often treated with anti-depressants rather than physical activity. Dr. Merzenich said that anti-depressants work by manipulating chemical transmitters in the brain - brain exercise can do exactly that.

"The brain is continually changing itself on a massive scale. It's continuously plastic. It's remodeling itself and by that remodeling it's creating a model of the world to which you happen to be living and operating." Simply put, plasticity is the ability for the brain to change throughout a person's life. 

"If the brain is not well managed it regresses. It basically moves back to a more and more childlike state and ultimately it collapses." As people age, their brain functions decline, unless it is well managed and "exercised." 

Research has shown that the brain can continue to grow even as it ages. Merzenich's website states that "although certain brain machinery tends to decline with age, there are steps people can take to tap into plasticity and reinvigorate that machinery. We just have to 'exercise' the brain in the right way." Even though it is not a proven cure for Alzheimer's, brain training or exercise has shown to slow down brain decline. 

Watch Larry King's entire interview with Dr. John Ratey and Dr. Michael Merzenich now.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.

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