Category Archives: Exercise

Exercise is Good for the Brain

mh_brainexEndorphins Feature

Anyone with a brain exercises these days, but did you know exercise can return the favor and train your brain? Not only is exercise smart for your heart and weight, but it can make you smarter and better at what you do.

“I like to say that exercise is like taking a little Prozac or a little Ritalin at just the right moment,” says John J. Ratey, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of A User’s Guide to the Brain. “Exercise is really for the brain, not the body. It affects mood, vitality, alertness, and feelings of well-being.”

Stephen C. Putnam, MEd, took up canoeing in a serious way to combat the symptoms of adult ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Then he wrote a book, titled Nature’s Ritalin for the Marathon Mind, about the benefits of exercise on troublesome brain disorders such as ADHD, a neurological/behavioral condition resulting in hyperactivity and the inability to focus on tasks.

Putnam cites studies of children who ran around for 15 to 45 minutes before class and cut their ants-in-the-pants behavior by half when they got to class. As with most exercise, the effects were relatively lasting — smoothing out behavior two to four hours after the exercise.

Putnam also points to some preliminary animal research that suggests that exercise can cause new stem cells to grow, refreshing the brain and other body parts. According to Ratey, exercise also stimulates nerve growth factors. “I call it Miracle-Gro for the brain,” he says.

 How Exercise Trains the Brain

Christin Anderson, MS, wellness and fitness coordinator of the University of San Francisco, explains that exercise affects many sites within the nervous system and sets off pleasure chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine that make us feel calm, happy, and euphoric.

In other words, if you don’t want to wait for those good feelings to come by accident (if they do), you can bring them on by exercising.

“When one exercises,” Anderson says, “you can think more clearly, perform better, and your morale is better. This is pure science — stimulate your nervous system and function at a higher level.”

Effects of Exercise on Depression

Almost everyone has heard of the “fog of war,” but the “fog of living” is depression. “Depression affects memory and effectiveness (not to mention the ability to get up, get dressed, and function),” Anderson says. “If you can control your physiology, you can relax, focus, and remember.”

In a study reported in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness in 2001, 80 young male and female volunteers were tested for mood and then did aerobics for an hour. Of the 80, 52 were depressed before the exercise. That group was the most likely to benefit, reporting a reduction in anger, fatigue, and tension. They also felt more vigorous after the workout.

Effects of Exercise on Depression continued…

A well-known study was done at Duke University involving 150 people 50 or older who had been diagnosed with depression. They were divided into three groups and given either exercise as a treatment for four months, the antidepressant drug Zoloft, or a combination of the two.

At the end of the four months, all three groups felt better. But the researchers didn’t leave it there. They checked again in six months, and the exercise group had relapsed at significantly lower rates than the Zoloft or combination groups. In fact, the scientists felt that giving the Zoloft along with the exercise undermined the effects of the exercise, saying the combination group might have preferred to feel they had worked for their improvement rather than having to take a pill.

This doesn’t mean, the researcher said, that exercise is a cureall for every case of depression. Seeking out the study showed motivation, and motivation can be hard to come by when you’re depressed.

Bipolar disorder also does not seem to respond as well to exercise. On the other hand, anxiety disorders sometimes respond even more quickly.

 If You Want to Try Exercise as a Brain Trainer

Single bouts of exercise can reduce anxiety for several hours afterward, although there may be a lag time before the good feeling sets in if exercise is too intense (good news for those who find fanatical, prolonged, “check your pulse” exercise unappealing).

Therefore, low to moderate forms of exercise are recommended for brain training. Ratey recommends 8 to 12 minutes a day of sweating and breathing-hard exercise (60% of maximum heart rate) for brain training.

Anderson says a minimum would be 30 minutes of moderate exercise, walking, hiking, or swimming, three times a week. Half an hour to an hour, four to five times a week would be even better. For those who want to be REALLY on the ball, 90 minutes five to six times a week would not be out of line, she says.

Anderson recommends two sessions a day for this purpose, rather than one big heaving workout. “Swim for 20 minutes in the morning, then walk at night,” she advises. “Right after hard, intense exercise, you may not be as acute. Overtraining can set off enzymes that can lead to fatigue, which is the enemy of alertness.”

Anderson also says the type of exercise you select depends on your personality. It may be the opposite of what you’d expect. “If you’re a 32-year-old male, work 70 hours a week, play ball twice on the weekend and jog daily,” she says, “you may need to do some yoga to improve your mental acuity.” Some coaches, she points, out actually have to get people to relax to find their “edge.” Meditation can also be a great complement to exercise, she adds. Then: “Do what you enjoy. That’s important.” (If you are reading this within 5 minutes of when we began this assignment, please come to my desk right now, quietly, for extra credit!  Do not tell anyone around you that you’re reading this or you will loose your extra credit.  If you come up to my desk right now, congratulations!). 

“You want to ready your brain for learning,” Ratey says. For that to happen, all the chemicals must “jog” into place.

Star Lawrence is a medical journalist based in the Phoenix area.


Letter to Rick Penny

See the letter below as a formula for writing your own letter to Rick Penny.  Use google docs and choose a Letter Template.  Then, use the ideas you see in this sample letter to write your own letter to Rick Penny about how he should use the Zorro Circle to achieve his goals.

Paragraphs in the Essay:

Paragraph 1:  Type Rick Penny a letter.  Explain how he should use the Zorro Circle to accomplish one big goal of his.

Paragraph 2:  Explain how the Zorro Circle has helped you reach one of your goals.

Paragraph 3:  Finally, give Rick Penny encouragement and remind him what you suggested he should choose to focus on for his Zorro Circle, and then tell him one last positive word of encouragement.

Example Essay:   


The White House is Requesting $700K for Standing Desks

The White House is tak­ing a stand.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent pub­lic so­li­cit­a­tion, the Ex­ec­ut­ive Of­fice of the Pres­id­ent is seek­ing up to $700,000 worth of stand­ing desks. The cost is the gov­ern­ment’s best es­tim­ate over a five-year peri­od, al­though the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion will end in Janu­ary 2017, and the lat­ter four years of the con­tract are op­tion­al.

The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment post­ing was quite spe­cif­ic in that the desks had to be “Var­idesk brand name or equal” and provide the con­tract­or’s pri­cing for vari­ous mod­els with up to three com­puter mon­it­ors. The lar­ger Var­idesks cost between $400 and $500 per unit.

The full min­im­um re­quire­ments are lis­ted be­low:

1) A fully as­sembled height ad­justable stand­ing desktop that sits on top of an ex­ist­ing desk (no as­sembly [i.e., no clamps or arms]); 2) Key­board/mouse tray in­cluded as part of the sys­tem; 3) Ease of use (mul­tiple heights/po­s­i­tions); 4) The ad­just­ment must be sturdy, stable and safe at all height ex­ten­sions to ac­com­mod­ate in­di­vidu­als of vari­ous heights while they are in a stand­ing po­s­i­tion; 5) Dur­able, abil­ity to with­stand wear and tear; 6) Must hold up to 35 pounds; 7) Desk at­tach­ment should have an op­tion that fits eas­ily in­to corners; 8) No loss of work space; 9) Col­or: black unit; 10) Must be fully port­able (eas­ily moved from desk to desk) and eas­ily stored (not cum­ber­some or bulky for stor­age); and 11) Min­im­um of one-year war­ranty in­cluded.

Op­tion­al ac­cessor­ies: 1) Stand­ing mats, dur­able, sturdy, nonslip, and stable cush­ion­ing to sup­port legs and back dur­ing long-term stand­ing.

The stand­ing-desk craze might have re­cently reached a new peak, but some high-pro­file Re­pub­lic­ans in pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions have evan­gel­ized the an­ti­sedent­ary life. In a 2002 memo on in­ter­rog­a­tion tech­niques, former De­fense Sec­ret­ary Don­ald Rums­feld fam­ously ques­tioned some of the lim­its on de­tain­ees. “I stand for 8-10 hours a day,” he wrote. “Why is stand­ing lim­ited to four hours?”

For cen­tur­ies, users have ex­tolled the pos­it­ive ef­fects of stand­ing desks, al­though only in the past sev­er­al years have many main­stream pub­lic­a­tions taken no­tice and pro­claimed an­oth­er boom­let. In 2011, the New York Times Magazine pub­lished an art­icle titled, “Is Sit­ting a Leth­al Activ­ity?” Sev­er­al months later, The Wall Street Journ­al ran a piece not­ing how the stand­ing desk is “Sil­ic­on Val­ley’s new­est status sym­bol.” In 2012, Google set up a tread­mill desk at the Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Con­ven­tion.

Then came The New Re­pub­lic back­lash—“Screw Your Stand­ing Desk! A Sit­ter’s Mani­festo”—and the counter. Ac­cord­ing to a 2014 Wash­ing­ton Post column, the ad­justable-height, no-non­sense, white-or-black Var­idesks have popped up at the Na­tion­al In­sti­tutes of Health, United Na­tions Sec­ret­ari­at, and the Fed­er­al Re­serve.Fast Com­pany ran a first-per­son nar­rat­ive that year (with the ed­it­or’s note that it “is now one of their most-read lead­er­ship art­icles of 2014”and Smith­so­ni­ roun­ded up five health be­ne­fits of stand­ing desks: re­duced risk of obesity, Type 2 Dia­betes, car­di­ovas­cu­lar dis­ease, some forms of can­cer, and thus dy­ing early. Fi­nally in Feb­ru­ary, satire web­site The Onion re­por­ted that Mayo Clin­ic ex­perts have a new dir­ect­ive: “Amer­ic­ans stand up at their desk, leave their of­fice, and nev­er re­turn.”

The White House did not re­spond to com­ment.

6 Exercise Excuses


Exercise Excuse No. 1: ‘I Don’t Have Time.’

“How much television do you watch?” asks Walter Thompson, PhD, professor of kinesiology and health at Georgia State University.

During your shows, use resistance bands for strength training, or walk in place. You could also record your shows and watch them later, skipping the ads; use that time to exercise.

If you don’t have a long stretch of time, you could break up your workout into shorter sessions. Some activity is better than none. “We find time for things we value,” says James Hill, PhD, co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry.

Exercise Excuse No. 2: ‘I’m Too Tired.’

Working out actually gives you more energy. Your body makes feel-good hormones (endorphins), “and you’re getting the circulation going,” says Marisa Brunett, a certified athletic trainer in Orlando, Fla.

It may help to work out in the morning before your day gets away from you, says kinesiologist Lynette Craft, PhD. She’s an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University.

Not a morning person? No problem. Do it whenever you feel best, says Brunett, who likes to work out in the middle or at the end of the day.

Exercise Excuse No. 3: ‘I Don’t Get a Break From the Kids.’

“Take the kids with you,” Hill says. While they’re playing, you can walk around theplayground, or jump rope nearby. During their games or sports practices, walk briskly around the field.

Go biking with your kids, put up a badminton net in your yard, sign up as a family for “fun runs,” or just walk around the neighborhood with your children. When the weather’s bad, try active video games like “Dance Dance Revolution,” “Wii Sport,” and “Wii Fit.”

“When mom or dad is more fit, has more energy, the whole family benefits,” sayspsychologist Christina Recascino, PhD.

Exercise Excuse No. 4: ‘Exercise Is Boring.’

Find an activity you love. Try inline skating, dancing, or gardening. Join a sports league. Or go dancing. “There’s an exercise for everyone,” Recascino says. “It doesn’t have to be onerous or unpleasant.”

If it makes exercise more enjoyable for you, it’s OK to watch TV or read while you’re on the exercise bike or treadmill, as long as your workout is still challenging.

Get some friends to go with you, or join a group. And every once in a while, try something totally new. “Mix it up so you don’t get bored,” Brunett says.

Exercise Excuse No. 5: ‘I Just Don’t Like to Move.’

First, figure out why.

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The 30-Minute Workout Routine

Is it that you don’t like getting sweaty? You can work out indoors where it’s air conditioned. You can swim so you won’t notice any perspiration. Or try a low-sweat activity, like gentle types of yoga.

Is it hard on your joints? Head for the pool. Exercising in water is easier on your joints.The stronger your muscles get, the more they can support your joints and the less you’ll hurt. If your physical limitations are more serious, check with your doctor, or find an athletic trainer who can help you figure out exercises that are still safe and easy to do.

If you’re self-conscious about your weight, you could start by walking with friends, working out in the privacy of your home, or exercising with a trainer who’s supportive. Wear clothes that feel comfortable.

Exercise Excuse No. 6: ‘I’ve Tried Before.’

Set goals that are small and realistic. Then you’re more likely to feel like a success, not a failure, Brunett says.

It also helps to keep a log and post it somewhere public — even on Facebook. Craft calls it a “wall of encouragement.” Friends and family can then say, “Hey, you did 15 minutes yesterday. Great job,” she says. A log also helps you see if you’re starting to fall off the wagon (or the treadmill).

Having an exercise buddy keeps you accountable as well, says Boston psychologist Eric Endlich, PhD. You may be more likely to show up for your workout if you know someone is expecting you to be there.

The Needle And The Damage Done

The Needle And The Damage Done

By Neil Young

“Needle And The Damage Done”

I caught you knockin’
at my cellar door
I love you, baby,
can I have some more
Ooh, ooh, the damage done.  I hit the city and
I lost my band
I watched the needle                                                            Personification
take another man
Gone, gone, the damage done.I sing the song
because I love the man
I know that some
of you don’t understand
to keep from running out.I’ve seen the needle
and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s                                                                  Simile
like a settin’ sun.

7 Ways to Build the Exercise Habit



A.  Read the article below 7 Ways to Build the Exercise Habit.
B.  Answer these questions:
1.  Set an exercise goal for yourself.  Make sure this goal is a long term goal that can last longer than 30 days.   Look at idea number one in the reading for examples.
2. Set a Deadline. Set a date by which you will reach your goal. Write your goal and deadline on a piece of paper and put it somewhere you can see it multiple times a day.
3.  Make a Plan. Once you have set your goal, you must back it up with a plan.

  • Which exercises will you perform?
  • How many sets and reps will you do?
  • How many times a week will you go the gym?

4.  The reading says to Exercise First Thing in the Morning.  Can you make this a reality?  Why or why not?  And if you can’t exercise in the morning, write down when, exactly, you will exercise during the day.
5. Stick to your Plan.  How hard do you think it will be to stick to your plan? Be honest with yourself here. If you think it’ll be hard, what could you do to make it easier?
6. Who will you train with or what will you do to sustain your exercise habit. 
7.  Be confident. Being confident is important, describe how you’ll stay confident on this journey.

By Mehdi, author of

Leo did a great job with his article How To Make Exercise a Daily Habit. I’ve been strength training for 10 years, and I thought: let’s give the people of Zen Habits my method for building the exercise habit.

You’ve probably tried it several times. You’re fed up with your skinny look or overweight body. You decide to finally do something about it. So you take a gym membership. Some friends decide to join you. After a few weeks however, your friends don’t show up anymore. Then you end up alone. And eventually you quit.

Yeah I know, this happens all the time. I’ve seen it over and over again. I know what you’re thinking. How come some people can stick with it and others not? What is their secret?

I’ll first tell you what it is not: it’s not discipline, it’s not willpower.Discipline and willpower only work in the short-term.

What works in the long-term is making exercise a habit. That’s their secret. And that’s what this post is about — 7 ways to build the exercise habit.

1. Set your Goal. What do you want to achieve?

  • Bigger muscles?
  • Less fat?
  • More strength?
  • More speed?

Exercising can be used for several means. Before you take a gym membership, start by setting a definite goal. What is it that you want?

Don’t try to achieve more than 1 thing at a time. Start with one goal. Once you have attained it, you can work towards a second goal.

2. Set a Deadline. Set a date by which you will reach your goal. Write your goal and deadline on a piece of paper and put it somewhere you can see it multiple times a day.

A good place would be on your nightstand. Look at it on waking up and before going to bed. This will act as a constant reminder of your goal.

3. Make a Plan. Once you have set your goal, you must back it up with a plan.

  • Which exercises will you perform?
  • How many sets and reps will you do?
  • How many times a week will you go the gym?

Your time is precious. Any minute in the gym must bring you closer towards the achievement of your goal. So choose a solid training program. If you’re a total beginner to strength training, read Starting Strength. It’s the best place to start.

4. Exercise First Thing in the Morning. When you’ve just had a tough day at work, it can be hard to train for another hour at the gym. A solution is to exercise first thing in the morning:

  • Wake up early
  • Eat breakfast
  • Prepare the stuff you need for work
  • Go to the gym

One hour later, you’re another step closer towards the achievement of your goal. And you have your whole day to do whatever you need to do.

5. Stick to your Plan. This is something I experienced on numerous occasions. The days you don’t feel like exercising, are often your best days. Maybe it’s the mind-body connection: the body says no, but the mind says go. Thus the body eventually says go too. I don’t know.

Whatever it is, when it’s the day to train, it’s the day to train. Make no excuses, go the gym. If you don’t feel 100% healthy, still go the gym, but train at a lower intensity. The fact that you’ve been there, is more important than the quality of your training. And as I wrote above, sometimes it can turn out into one of your most productive workouts.

The more you exercise, the more you build the habit. Stick to your plan.

6. Train With Someone Who Has The Exercise Habit. If you’re training partner quits, you’ll probably end up quitting too. But if your training partner hangs on, you’ll take it as a challenge.

Next time you go the gym, look around you. Look at the people who exercise. Find someone who is serious with his training. Take the initiative: ask him if you can train with him. If you choose the right person, he’ll accept your request. Most people know that getting into exercising is not easy, they know because they’ve been there.

A good training partner will motivate you & help you achieve your goal. If not, keep on looking.

7. Be confident. You can achieve whatever you want, if you believe that you can do it. Having a clear goal and a plan will already arm you with self-confidence.

Know that it will take 30 days to build the exercise habit. During the first 30 days you’ll need to push yourself to the gym. After 30 days it will become easier: the habits starts to take over, pushing you the gym.

Write this next to your goal and deadline: “If they can do it, I can do it”

Mehdi is author of, a blog about strength training, nutrition, lifestyle & attitude. Join him at for the fascinating journey towards more strength, bigger muscles, low body fat & a better health.