« Single Issue Candidates | Main | When Charter Schools Attack »

November 08, 2007


Nice op-ed in The Times suggesting that while brain exercises don't actually do much for your brain, actual exercise has been proven to do quite a bit.

When inactive people get more exercise, even starting in their 70s, their executive function improves, as shown in a recent meta-analysis of 18 studies. One effective training program involves just 30 to 60 minutes of fast walking several times a week.

Exercise is also strongly associated with a reduced risk of dementia late in life. People who exercise regularly in middle age are one-third as likely to get Alzheimer’s disease in their 70s as those who did not exercise. Even people who begin exercising in their 60s have their risk reduced by half.

Widespread distribution of those benefits would vastly reduce dementia (not to mention cardiovascular disease, obesity, etc), thus lowering health costs. But, instead, we've pumped enormous amounts of money and constructed our building codes such that walking, in many communities and areas, is basically impossible, particularly for the elderly, who are less adept at dodging cars.

November 8, 2007 | Permalink


Ah yes, government planning. The evidence is that it is just as good at providing education.

Posted by: Marcin Tustin | Nov 8, 2007 12:39:54 PM

By your logic, Marcin, that would make unzoned Houston the most walkable city in America!

Posted by: Tyro | Nov 8, 2007 12:48:52 PM

Are you claiming that there isn't enough 'pro-exercise' marketing in America? That seems bizarre to me.

The problem isn't that there aren't enough people saying we should exercise, I think everyone already knows that, the problem is that exercise sucks and people would rather watch TV.

Posted by: Dave Justus | Nov 8, 2007 1:03:23 PM

exercise sucks and people would rather watch TV

If by "exercise," you mean the process by which you get home, change into your exercise clothes, possibly go to the gym, and exert yourself vigorously for 45 minutes to an hour, yes, that can be a sucky experience, even for me, who claims to enjoy it.

However, "exercise" also covers activities like walking with your kids to the park, bicycling down to the coffee shop to meet up with your friend, and carrying home a bag of groceries from the corner store, then it doesn't suck to hard and mostly you probably won't notice that it is keeping you from developing serious love handles.

Posted by: Tyro | Nov 8, 2007 1:14:03 PM

I am reminded of the protagonist in Orwell's 1984 (which, come to think of it, I haven't read since about 1985) where everyone is required to do their calisthetics in the morning with the party apparatchik looking on and sending you for reeducation if you weren't enthusiastic enough.

It is the god-given right of every american to be as damn fat and lazy as they care to be. Big Mother is Watching You!

Posted by: Scott | Nov 8, 2007 1:32:42 PM

I can't believe a stupid troll would start whining about the damn gub'mit on a thread about senile dementia and exercise. Anyway...

If you have not had the experience of dealing with someone who struggles with demetia, do a volunteer round at your local skilled nursing home. Seriously. It is really quite terrifying. Continuosly restless, fidgety, frightened, confused, can't recognize your own family, can't sit still to eat, sleep only when your exhausted or lucky. Everyday a terrifying challenge. You may think that the nursing staff are intruders in your home and try to fight them, for instance.
Yes, by all means turn off your TVs, get outside and do something. It's worth all the effort in the world.

Posted by: chowchowchow | Nov 8, 2007 1:38:11 PM

I don't know that our building codes have made walking impossible...maybe DC but generally i think if someone wants to exercise they'll find a way.

Speaking of which, a study a while back said that nicotine was an aid to slowing the progress of Alzheimer's--guess it keeps the synapses firing so those gnarly neuron coating proteins can't clog 'em up.
And you don't have to smoke to get nicotine--a little dip or the patch will do it too.

Posted by: Texican | Nov 8, 2007 2:14:29 PM

Wow, Texican, reading your post would give me the idea that several years' worth of discussion about zoning on this weblog, up to an including my comment at 1:14 PM never happened.

Posted by: Tyro | Nov 8, 2007 2:19:18 PM

Marcin, that has to be the most ill-informed comment regarding the planning/zoning process I have ever read. Congratulations! You must know absolutely nothing about it.

Ezra, not building codes, zoning ordinances. Building codes are for internal stuff, zoning is for all the buildings in town.

I like my new version of exercise: the 1 mile i walk to and from work. Unless you have done it yourself, you have no idea how much more relaxing it is. We need to get our asses out of the car seat if we really want to slim down.

Posted by: verplanck colvin | Nov 8, 2007 2:48:35 PM

This is why there are so many mall-walker organizations. Malls are clean, free of traffic, warm in winter, and you can get a pretzel when you're done. I know mall-walking is considered corny and all that by young hipsters, but if it works, you go, granny!

Posted by: The Critic | Nov 8, 2007 5:10:13 PM

Tyro--sorry, just started reading this blog in the last month, so only your latest post "happened". I'm all for more user friendly walkways/environments but I'm not going to sit around and wait for them.

Posted by: Texican | Nov 8, 2007 6:13:42 PM

As somebody who really likes to walk and who lives in a fairly suburbanized small city (Richmond, VA), it often strikes me that walking is considered by many people to be not just quirky but actually insane.

There is a bar about 4 miles from my house that has pints of good beer for two bucks on Monday nights, and so when the weather is nice I often walk over, drink for a few hours, and then walk home. It's about an hour each way, and I certainly wish it were closer, but it's strange to me that when I tell the other patrons that I walked they look at me as if I told them that I crawled ten miles over broken glass.

It's a weird society where people think there is something odd about the decision to walk rather than drive to a place where your sole intention is to get... too drunk to drive.


Posted by: Ape Man | Nov 9, 2007 11:27:32 AM

"As somebody who really likes to walk and who lives in a fairly suburbanized small city (Richmond, VA), it often strikes me that walking is considered by many people to be not just quirky but actually insane."

On a related topic, I live about 5.5 miles from the office. I'll frequently run to or from work -- about 40 minutes at a brisk pace. Almost the entire route is on running trails (got to love Colorado). Driving during rush hour usually takes about 30 minutes, and public takes 45. People literally think I am crazy for running. And these are the same people who will drive the 30 minutes, then hop on their treadmills for 45 minutes when they get home. The idea that they might save half an hour commuting AND get to run on high quality running trails in a city with beautiful weather and spectacular mountain views does not even occur to them.

Posted by: Joe | Nov 9, 2007 12:14:09 PM

I like my new version of exercise: the 1 mile i walk to and from work. Unless you have done it yourself, you have no idea how much more relaxing it is.

I don't walk quite this much for my commute, but almost every weekday coming home I have a 20-minute walk uphill (including a set of 110 stairs. yes, I counted). I used to whine about it but now I only avoid it (by getting a ride or taking a bus) if it's raining really hard or I'm not feeling well. It really is relaxing. (though I also love, love, love the act of reading on public transportation).

Posted by: Isabel | Nov 9, 2007 6:11:16 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.