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Functional Movement

“As a coach, particularly as a conditioning coach, following the functional path has at times been frustrating but ultimately a very satisfying experience. The path has been narrow and very winding at times and clear and well-paved at others. Beginning on the path there were more questions than answers. I found there were not a lot of sources to go to initially. But the farther I got down the path the more I found signs that many people had been there before. I would see a concept here, a training method there, hear a presentation or read an article. All of them were on the track, but there was no unified direction. I realized that in athlete development there were commonalities that had to occur to achieve successful development.

The people who were most successful knew movement. They could sense and feel and in turn articulate how the body moved. Most important, how the body moved efficiently. Some of these people were coaches, some were athletes, artists, dancers, physical therapists, sports scientists. What they all have (had) as I look back or through the prism of time was a feeling for body as a unit, a kinetic chain, where movement was more than just individual muscles contracting and relaxing. Movement was a beautiful flowing event that encompassed the whole body from toenails to finger nails. Each link in the chain had a specific role to play, each rule was part of an integrated whole, the end result being efficient flowing movement. Because the body was a kinetic chain movement was a flow. If there was a problem somewhere in the chain, it was easy to see the cause of the problem because you could go to the links above or below the problem to determine the cause.”

Vern Gambetta

Another classic post from Vern Gambetta – Movement is a Flow!!!

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What training is about

Love this. It says it all!!

“Training is not about the hurt or pain; it is not about puking and being at the max in each workout. That is not training. Training is systematic, sequential and progressive; it incorporates hard workouts and easy workouts to allow the body to adapt. Work is easy training is hard. Anyone can do mindless work that wears out the body; not very many can focus and put the pieces together to systematically improve performance over time. To understand what good training is, it is important to be able to separate fact from fiction and style and marketing claims from programs that have substance and produce consistent results. Along the same line of thought beware of false prophets bearing gifts. Nothing easily attained is ever worthwhile and nothing worthwhile is easily attained. Focus on fundamentals and build on the basics. Good training is built upon scientific laws, empirical evidence and best practices that has stood the test of time. Adaptation takes time; the process is predictable based on the demands imposed on the body. Nothing exotic here, it is all very basic, if someone tells you otherwise, don’t listen. Take your time and stay on the functional path to the destination – optimum performance in the competitive arena.”

Vern Gambetta – Gambetta Sports Training Systems.

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So you want to lose weight – do you exercise, diet or do both?

New science suggests that exercise does not necessarily increase your appetite or make you crave junk food. Conversely, if you skip the run or spin class and choose to cut calories instead, you might end up binge-eating later, reports a new study’s from Loughborough University published this spring in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 

“There’s a big debate at the moment about the extent to which the increased prevalence of overweight and obesity in the world might be due to overeating versus a lack of exercise, we set out to compare men and women’s responses to two particular hormones, ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, and peptide YY, which suppresses appetite, in two separate experiments.”says lead study author David Stensel, PhD, a professor of exercise metabolism at the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University in the UK.

In the first experiment, Stensel and his team observed 12 healthy college-age women who participated in three nine-hour trials, each a week apart. Each trial took place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in a lab, where subjects could pass the time working at a desk, playing computer games or watching TV. All subjects were fed two standardized meals (a tuna sandwich with mayonnaise, potato chips, a chocolate muffin and a green apple) within two hours (breakfast) and five hours (lunch) into the experiment. At hour eight (dinner), subjects then had access to a buffet — including milk, cereals, breads, ham, cheese, butter, cookies, chocolate and fruit — where they could eat as much as they wanted. Subjects rated their appetite throughout the day and gave blood samples so that scientists could measure the two hormones.
The three trials were divided into three categories (control, exercise-induced and food-restricted) and occurred randomly and simultaneously. The control subjects saw no changes to the above laid-out plan. However, when exercise was introduced, the same subjects were asked to run at a high intensity for 90 minutes, burning 830 calories on average before breakfast. All meal options remained the same as in the control trial. Lastly, in the food restriction trial, scientists reduced breakfast and lunch by 415 calories total (half the amount burned during the exercise trial) to create an energy deficit through diet. Then scientists repeated this exact experiment (albeit a bit shorter) with both male and female subjects.
The results of the experiments, which were the same for both men and women, suggest that exercise curbs cravings more than a calorie-restricted diet. 

“When we reduced people’s food intake at breakfast and lunch, the hunger hormone ghrelin stayed very high, whereas in the exercise trial, the ghrelin remained low,” Stensel explains. “And we found the hunger-suppressant hormone, peptide YY, stayed high in the exercise trial and low in the food deficit trial throughout the day. We also found that in the food deficit trial, people expressed feeling hungrier throughout the day whereas in the exercise trial, their perception of appetite was similar to the control trial.”
When it came time for dinner in the food-restriction trial, subjects tended to go hog wild at the buffet, consuming about 940 calories on average. The same subjects responded differently during the control and exercise trials, eating 610 and 660 calories on average, respectively, at the buffet. “That 300-calorie difference is a big jump,” says Stensel, who admits further research is needed to understand the mechanisms of why this is happening.
One reason could be that when you’re exercising vigorously, Stensel speculates, “the body is prioritizing sending blood to the muscles and that might interfere with hormone release, like ghrelin, which is secreted from cells in the stomach.” Basically, if less blood is pumping through the stomach, then it can’t carry ghrelin out, which might justify its temporary suppression “That wouldn’t explain peptide YY, so that one is still a bit of a mystery,” he adds.
While this new study doesn’t have all the answers, other researchers agree it does support a very important point.

 “If you’re trying to lose weight, diet and exercise is still the best approach,” says Joy Dubost, PhD, a registered dietitian based in Washington, D.C., who did not work on this study. “The exercise component is so critical.”
She added: “You can only go down in calories so low. You may lose weight initially, but when you hit a plateau in weight loss, you can’t continue to restrict calories. Also, if you’re constantly hungry, then you will likely come off the diet. We know through this study that when you add exercise to a balanced, healthy diet, it really helps with weight management and weight loss. This study also dispels the myth that when you work out a lot, it increases hunger cravings.”
The bottom line: Exercise does not trigger you to eat more, but dieting alone might. 

So if you really want to slim down, it would better benefit you to hit the gym than, say, eliminate entire food groups. The good news is you don’t need to run for 90 minutes to get the best results. As little as 30 minutes of vigorous exercise (that means any activity that gets your heart pumping) may help keep ghrelin, in check, says Stensel, who is currently overseeing two additional studies in this area.  

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20 Good Reason to get Moving

In 2011 Susan Erasmus wrote an article in which she scrutinised medical journals and came up with the these 20 benefits of exercise.

6 years on they are still valid reasons why moving is good for you – Here is a summary of the proven health benefits of exercise:

1. It’s good for your heart

“Even a moderate amount of exercise helps your heart,” says Dr William Kraus, associate professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Centre, in an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine, “Some exercise is better than none and more is better than less.”

Exercise reduces LDL cholesterol, the kind that clogs arteries. It also reduces your blood pressure, relieving stress on your heart; improves your insulin sensitivity; improves heart muscle function; and blood flow and diminishes the chances of developing blood clots. These findings have been corroborated by a host of studies over the years.

2. Exercise promotes weight loss

Research has shown that to manage weight, you should exercise energetically for at least 30 minutes a day. You can also do an hour of intensive exercise every second day if this fits into your schedule more easily.

Be consistent and be regular. Do those one-hour exercise sessions three to four times every week, not just one week a month, and you will achieve the result you desire – to lose weight and keep it off, says Dr Ingrid van Heerden, registered dietician.

3. Exercise prevents osteoporosis

Exercise, together with a healthy calcium intake, builds strong bones. Weight-bearing exercises, like running, walking and weight-lifting, help lower your odds of getting osteoporosis as you grow older, according to experts.

Ideally, you should start when you’re young, but it’s never too late to pick up the habit. Even a brisk walk can help, say metabolic disease specialists.

4. Exercise lowers high blood pressure

Exercise is good for your blood pressure – no matter your age, weight, race or gender. And it really doesn’t matter whether you get exercise from a brisk walk, a fast run or a few laps in the pool; the results are equally good.

The studies on which these findings were based used “aerobic” exercise – activities that increase heart rate and improve the body’s ability to use oxygen. Most of the studies involved participating in one or more aerobic activity for 20 – 30 minutes per session, several times a week.

On average, exercise helped study participants reduce systolic (top number) pressure by nearly 4 mm Hg, and diastolic (bottom number) pressure by slightly more than 2.5 mm Hg. But experts caution that those with extremely high blood pressure should not rely on exercise alone to control hypertension.

5. Exercise is an excellent de-stressor

It tends to be general knowledge: exercise counters stress and depression. But exactly how and why does this work?

Exercise acts as a temporary diversion to daily stresses and it improves self-esteem. Increased core temperature during exercise may lead to reduced muscle tension and favourable alterations in brain neurotransmitters. Mood improvements may also occur due to the increased secretion of endogenous (internal) opiates, e.g. endorphins.

Psychological changes may occur because of changes in norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, all hormones which can affect mood and anxiety levels.

6. Exercise prevents colds

One doesn’t automatically associate regular exercise with a reduction in the number of colds people get. But researchers from the University of Carolina found that people who exercised regularly were 23% less likely to get colds than those who exercised less. And if those who exercised got colds, the symptoms disappeared more quickly than in the study participants who did little exercise.

Health experts believe that exercise spikes the immune system for a few hours each day, helping to ward off colds. Thirty minutes of brisk walking is enough to make you reap the benefits of exercise.

7. Exercise reduces the severity of asthma

Many people who suffer from exercise-induced asthma, understandably try to avoid exercise. But sports medicine specialists say it’s possible for asthmatics to continue exercising if they use preventive medications wisely and avoid certain triggers that exacerbate attacks. Exercise-induced asthma can be made worse by cold, dry air or air containing high levels of pollen or pollutants. The extra effort made to stay fit pays off in fewer or milder asthma attacks overall and a need for less medication.

Experts recommend swimming as one of the best exercises for people with asthma.

8. Exercise reduces diabetic complications

Lifestyle factors have a huge impact on certain conditions – and diabetes is one of them. Exercise can help to reduce your insulin requirements, lower your cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, and in the long term can reduce the development of heart disease and stroke. This is important because diabetics have a higher risk of developing heart and circulatory problems. Exercise can also promote weight loss, improve circulation and reduce stress levels (raising your glucose level).

9. Exercise promotes a healthy pregnancy

Although exercise might be risky in some cases, the benefits of exercising during pregnancy generally far outweigh the risks and some women can even exercise up until the third trimester. Relaxation exercises, Kegel exercise that strengthen the pelvic muscles and back exercises are all important for pregnant women.

10. Exercise plays a role in preventing cancer

At least 35% of all cancer deaths may be related to overweight and lack of activity, the Seattle Cancer Research Centre has found. Exercise is believed to speed the passage of food through the colon, thereby reducing the amount of time that any toxins are in contact with the body. Overweight people also tend to have more insulin, which promotes the growth of tumours. For women, exercise reduces the level of oestrogen, a hormone linked to breast cancer.

11. Exercise has anti-ageing effects

Exercise enhances blood flow to the brain, possibly reducing risk of stroke. It also improves reasoning and memory.

Regular exercise arouses the brain and slows down degeneration of the central nervous system, which leads to slower reaction times and poorer coordination.

Exercise also increases strength and size of muscles and improves lung function. Regular exercise can reduce body fat and lower the risk of chronic lifestyle diseases in the elderly. Recent literature suggests that the greatest threat to health is not the aging process itself, but rather inactivity.

12. Exercise promotes brain health

If you thought exercising your brain meant only doing a few crossword puzzles or learning a language, you may be wrong – rather put on your walking shoes and get moving. This was the finding of researchers from the University of Illinois.

Their study found that the brain responses in active seniors were comparable to those of young adults.

It is thought that exercise increases the flow of blood to the brain, just as it improves circulation to the heart and the rest of the body. Activity also stimulates the growth of nerve cells in the part of the brain involved in memory.

13. Exercise is great for your sex life

The medical research points towards it: the fitter you are, the better your sex life is.The reason seems to be two-fold: psychologically you feel better about yourself and more inclined towards sex, and physically, being fit improves libido, blood circulation and sexual functioning.It has been said before that the brain may be the most important sexual organ. This is because stressed, anxious and depressed people are usually unable to enjoy a healthy sex life. Additionally, people with a bad body image do not feel good about their bodies and often avoid sex or are unable to truly enjoy it.According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), being physically active can be “a natural Viagra boost”. “Men and women who exercise regularly are going to have increased levels of desire. They’re going to have enhanced confidence, enhanced ability to achieve orgasm and greater sexual satisfaction,” says Cedric Bryant, the council’s chief exercise physiologist.

14. Exercise improves sleeping patterns

Relaxation exercises will help you to ease tension and relieve headaches, backaches and insomnia. Exercise releases the body’s own painkillers, called endorphins, into your system. It also helps you to gain a sense of emotional wellbeing and a feeling of being more in control.

Exercise during the day promotes the onset and quality of sleep, according to the South African Memory Resource Centre. But you need to exercise at the right time: the ideal time for exercise is in the morning. Exercising late in the day can contribute to sleeplessness, because exercise causes an increase in your body’s energy.

15. Exercise combats impotence

If you stop and think about it, it makes sense – increased circulation as a result of exercise should result in lower levels of impotence, as getting an erection is dependent on the efficiency of blood circulating to the penis.

“Losing weight, stopping smoking and doing more exercise are associated with better sexual health,” says Dr Andrew McCullough, director of Male Sexual Health, Fertility and Microsurgery at New York University Medical Center in New York City. “We talk so much about treating, treating, treating. Here we’re beginning to see an increasing body of evidence that we can modify the appearance of this by changing lifestyle.”

16. Exercise helps prevent stroke

Need another reason to make good on that long overdue promise to get more exercise? It can dramatically cut your risk of stroke.

“Highly active” people had a 27 percent lower risk of having a stroke or dying if they had one, compared with sedentary folks. And people who were “moderately active” had a 20 percent lower risk.

These findings are based on a review of 23 international studies that appear in the October issue of the journal Stroke, the Associated Press reports.

Jogging 15 to 20 minutes a day most days would qualify as highly active. Brisk walks of 30 minutes a day on most days would qualify as moderate activity, the AP says.

17. Exercise is good for mind and soul

In a synopsis on “Exercise, Fitness and Mental Health” (1990), sports psychologist D.R. Brown summarised the possible beneficial effects that exercise has on mental health. These include the following:

Exercise may act as a temporary diversion to daily stresses.

Exercise provides an opportunity for social interaction that may otherwise be lacking in an individual’s life.

Exercise provides an opportunity for self-mastery. Increasing fitness or improving body composition and other health parameters may improve an individual’s self-esteem.

Increased core temperature during exercise may lead to reduced muscle tension or alterations to brain neurotransmitters.

Mood improvements may occur due to the increased secretion of endogenous (internal) opiates e.g. endorphins

Psychological changes may occur due to alterations in norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, all hormones which can affect mood and anxiety level.

18. Exercise improves oxygen and nutrient supply to all cells in your body.

An American study indicates that ‘80-plus-ers’ can dramatically improve their health by exercising a few times a week. If this is true for elderly people, it certainly is for the younger set as well.Exercise improves the body’s utilisation of oxygen, and lowers systolic blood pressure (high pressure is a dangerous condition common in elderly people).

Positive results were obtained from the 22 elderly people (80 years and older) who took part in the study at the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Michigan.

19. Exercise allows you to improve muscle strength, joint structure and joint function

Strengthening exercises increase not only muscle strength and mass, but also bone strength, and the body’s metabolism.

A certain level of muscle strength is needed to function every day and do things such as walking and climbing stairs. Strengthening exercises increase this muscle strength by putting more strain on a muscle than it is normally accustomed to receiving. This increased load stimulates the growth of proteins inside each muscle cell that allow the muscle as a whole to contract.

Exercise can promote joint health for everyone, but particularly for people who suffer from arthritis. Arthritis is a general term for over 100 different conditions that cause pain, stiffness and often inflammation in one or more joints. Exercise can reduce some arthritis symptoms and improve joint mobility and strength.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Normally, the two bones of a joint are cushioned with a strong flexible tissue called cartilage. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage deteriorates, causing pain and stiffness.

Cartilage doesn’t have a blood supply; it relies on synovial fluid moving in and out of the joint to nourish it and take away waste products. Exercise helps this process.

20. Exercise helps to manage arthritis

Regular, intensive exercise for patients with rheumatoid arthritis builds muscle strength and aerobic capacity, improves the ability to do daily tasks and fosters a sense of well-being.

That’s the conclusion of a study by Dutch researchers who tracked 300 people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for two years. About half the patients participated in a one-hour exercise regimen twice weekly; the rest received traditional treatment, including physical therapy, if prescribed by their physicians.

The findings, appearing in journal Arthritis & Rheumatism, suggest high-intensity exercise programmes can benefit many RA patients, says researcher Dr Thea Vlieland of Leiden University Medical Centre.

The positive effects on muscle strength and aerobic capacity could be translated into an improvement in the activities of daily living, and this is what really makes a difference in your life, Vlieland says.

So the message is clear:-

if you want to be fit, healthy and active – Move More!!

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Exercise is good for your brain

Many of its effects may go unnoticed, but if you could look inside the heads of people who like to keep active, you’d see that different exercises strengthen, shape and mould the brain in multiple ways.

That the brains of exercisers look different to those that don’t is not new news. We have known that for years – especially aerobic exercise and its impact on Parkinson’s disease and depression, and we know this is at least in part because getting your heart beating faster increases blood flow and so brings more oxygen, growth factors, hormones and nutrients to your brain, leading it — like your muscles, lungs and heart — to grow stronger and more efficient.

However, more recently researchers have found more specific effects related to different kinds of exercise. For example, high-intensity intervals, aerobic exercise, weight training, yoga and sports drills are effecting different areas of the brain.

The standard recommendation is for 30 minutes of moderate, aerobic exercise a day, for the sake of your brain. But there may be benefits to going slower or faster,to lifting weights, or performing yoga or Tai Chi. Whether you want to improve your concentration, to learn to relax better or want to stop smoking, there’s help for you.

 e.g. We know resistance training helps improve complex thoughts, problem-solving and multitasking.

We have known for over a decade that exercise leads to a boost in , areas of the brain essential for memory. That’s because exercise causes hippocampal neurons to pump out a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes the growth of new neurons. This allows for improvements in memory. Older adults who do aerobic exercise three times a week grow larger hippocampi and perform better in memory tests. It now seems that aerobic exercise such as running and cycling may help  and other forms of dementia.

Teal Burrell reported the following:-

“Teresa Liu-Ambrose at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, has been looking for ways to halt dementia in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a population of adults known to be at increased risk of developing dementia, and was especially interested in strength training, which has in recent years been added to US and UK government recommendations for physical activity.
To test the idea, Liu-Ambrose compared the effects of aerobic exercise and strength training in 86 women with MCI. She measured their impact on two abilities known to decline as the condition progresses: memory and executive function — which encompasses complex thought processes, including reasoning, planning, problem-solving and multitasking.
Twice a week for an hour, one group lifted weights, while the other went for brisk walks quick enough that talking required effort. A control group just stretched for an hour instead. After six months of this, both walking and lifting weights had a positive effect on spatial memory — the ability to remember one’s surroundings and sense of place.

On top of that, each exercise had unique benefits. The group that lifted weights saw significant improvements to executive function. They also performed better in tests of associative memory, which is used for things like linking someone’s name to their face. The aerobic-exercise group saw improvements to verbal memory — the ability to remember that word you had on the tip of your tongue. Simply stretching had no effect on either memory or executive function.

If aerobic exercise and strength training have distinct benefits, is combining them the way to go? To address this, Willem Bossers of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands split 109 people with dementia into three groups. One group walked briskly four times a week for 30 minutes; a combination group walked twice a week and strength-trained twice a week for 30 minutes each; and a control group did no exercise. After nine weeks, Bossers put the participants through a battery of executive-function tests that measured problem-solving, inhibition and processing speed. He found that the combination group showed more than the aerobic-only or control groups. “It seems that, for older adults, walking only is not enough. They need to do some strength training,” he says.
And these benefits extend to healthy adults too. 

In a year-long trial of healthy older women, Liu-Ambrose found that lifting weights, even just once a week, resulted in a significant boost to executive function. Balancing and toning exercises, on the other hand, did not.
The combination of lifting weights and aerobic exercise might be particularly powerful because strength training triggers the release of a molecule called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), a growth hormone produced in the liver that is known to effect communication between brain cells and to promote the growth of new neurons and blood cells. On the other hand, aerobic exercise mainly boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor
(BDNF), says Liu-Ambrose.
In addition, Bossers says strength training also decreases levels of homocysteine, an inflammatory molecule that is increased in the brains of older adults with dementia. By combining aerobic exercise with strength training, you’re getting a more potent neurobiological cocktail. “You’re attacking the system in two ways,” he says.
The studies so far haven’t addressed how long the effects last, but preliminary findings suggest adults will have to keep exercising to maintain the benefits.

But we should start young, with findings that different types of exercise affect a child’s mental capacity in a number of ways. For example, if you want a child to focus for an hour — for a test — the best bet is to let them have a quick run around first. That’s according to studies that show a simple 20-minute walk has immediate effects on children’s attention, executive function and achievement in mathematics and reading tests. Letting kids sprint or skip about has the same effect. A brisk walk can also help children with ADHD to focus, although again it’s not yet clear how long the effects last.

These findings should be used to make decisions about the daily school routine, says Charles Hillman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who carried out some of the research. He agrees with current recommendations that children get at least an hour of exercise daily, but notes that it might be best spread over the course of the day. Because purely aerobic exercise keeps kids focused in the near term, giving them breaks to walk or move around every 2 hours might be the best way to promote learning.

In contrast, exercise that is highly structured and focused on specific skills, such as for a sport or to improve coordination, hamper attention. A lot of drills and rules may be too taxing for children right before a test or a situation that requires sustained focus.

Instead, these kinds of specific exercises seem to build up attention span gradually over the long-term. In research yet to be published, Maria Chiara Gallotta at the University of Rome in Italy found that twice-weekly sessions of coordinative exercises, such as basketball, volleyball or gymnastics practice, over the course of five months helped children do better on tests that required concentration and the ignoring of distractions.
The cerebellum — the finely wrinkled structure at the base of the brain — has been long known to be involved in coordinating movement, but is now recognised as having a role in attention as well. Practising complicated movements activates the cerebellum and, by working together with the frontal lobe, might improve attention in the process.

Making sure children are physically fit can have lasting cognitive benefits too, says Hillman. He has shown that children who are fit  have larger hippocampi and basal ganglia, and that they perform better in attention tests. The basal ganglia are a group of structures important for movement and goal-directed behaviour — turning thoughts into actions. They interact with the prefrontal cortex to influence attention, inhibition and executive control, helping people to switch between two tasks, such as going from sorting cards by colour to sorting cards by suit.
Hillman focuses on children aged 8 to 11 because areas like the hippocampi and basal ganglia are still maturing, so intervening at a young age can make a big difference and even small gains in fitness lead to measurable changes in the brain. In some of his studies, Hillman has put kids on year-long after-school fitness programmes. Many are overweight, and while they don’t lose much weight, their brains do change. They’re going from being unfit to slightly less unfit, says Hillman. “But we’re still finding benefits to brain function and cognition.”

Adults too can reap brain gains from sporty challenges – research on older adults showed an increase in basal ganglia volume following coordination exercises that included balancing, synchronising arm and leg movements, and manipulating props like ropes and balls, but not from aerobic exercise. Voelcker-Rehage found that these types of exercise improved visual-spatial processing , required for mentally approximating distances — for instance, being able to assess whether you have time to cross the street before an oncoming car reaches you — more than aerobic exercise. 

Another explanation comes from recent research by Tracy and Ross Alloway, both at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. They found that just a couple of hours of activity of the type we often enjoy during childhood, such as climbing trees, crawling along a beam, or running barefoot, had a dramatic effect on working memory.
This is the ability to hold on to information and manipulate it in our minds at the same time. 

“It prioritises and processes information, allowing us to ignore what is irrelevant and work with what is important,” says Tracy Alloway. “Working memory influences nearly everything that you do, from the classroom to the boardroom.”
So what is it about climbing trees or beam balancing that is so beneficial? The researchers only found positive results when the activities were a combination of two things. They needed to challenge the sense of proprioception — the position and orientation of the body — and also needed at least one other element, such as navigation, calculation or locomotion. Basically, the advantages came from exercises in which we need to balance and think at the same time. 

The more we learn about the effects of exercise on the brain, the more different types of benefits are emerging, extending beyond cognition to changes in behaviour.
One of the most popular fitness trends of the last few years is high-intensity interval training, HiiT, which involves quick spurts of all-out exercise. Its sheer toughness is claimed to provide the same benefits as longer efforts in a fraction of the time.
These workouts might have an extra advantage: short bursts of activity can help curb cravings. And although the tougher the better, they don’t necessarily have to be gut-bustingly hard.
To test the effects of intensity training on appetites, Kym Guelfi at the University of Western Australia in Perth invited overweight men to come into the lab on four separate occasions. On three of the visits, they spent 30 minutes on an exercise bike, but at different intensities — a moderate, continuous pace; alternating between intervals of high-intensity cycling for 1 minute followed by 4 minutes of moderate cycling; or alternating between very high intensity, 15-second sprints followed by one really easy minute. The fourth visit consisted of resting for the full 30 minutes.
After the most intense intervals, the men ate less of the provided, post-workout porridge and less food overall for the next day and a half compared with days they cycled moderately or simply rested.
One explanation could be that the exercise reduced levels of the “hunger hormone”, ghrelin. This is responsible for telling the part of the brain that controls eating — the hypothalamus — when the stomach is empty. When full, ghrelin production shuts off and hunger wanes. Following the most intense intervals of exercise, ghrelin levels were lowest. 

What is clear is that these effects can endure well into old age, and it’s never too late to start. The hippocampus shrinks as we get older, leading to the typical struggles with memory. But aerobic exercise not only prevents this loss — it reverses it, slowing the effects of getting older. Voelcker-Rehage has found that the brain requires less energy to complete certain tasks after exercise. “We would say that points to the fact that the brain is more efficient,” she says. “It works more like a young brain.” 

If you’re still unsure which type of exercise to pick, there’s some overlap between the different exercises and benefits, so Liu-Ambrose’s suggestion is simple: “If you’re not active, do something that you enjoy.” 

The best exercise is the kind that you’ll actually do.”