how regular movement makes you smarter john ratey

Ep30: How Regular Movement Makes You Smarter | with Dr. John Ratey

It’s no secret that my #1 productivity hack is movement throughout the workday. And everyone knows that exercise is good for us and can help us feel better, but who has the time to go running for 45 minutes every morning just to achieve the “Runner’s High?” Luckily for working stiffs like us who live in front of computers, the benefits of simple exercises and movement reach far beyond what you might get from intense activity, and the full potential that exercise and regular movement throughout the day have on improving your overall health and brain power is more profound than you can imagine…with a much smaller investment than you might expect.

In this episode I have an in-depth conversation with Dr. John Ratey, a clinical psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, and the author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and The Brain about how regular exercise and movement can actually improve your brain power and even make you smarter (based on science, not opinion). We discuss the immense impact regular exercise can have on cognitive function, memory, attention issues, and stress. And on the flip side, we discuss how lack of exercise and movement are literally shrinking your brain and impairing your cognitive function.

That’s right, not only is your desk chair hurting your lower back and causing brain fog…sitting in it all day long might actually be making you dumber.

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • John’s background and how he became interested in the benefits of exercise
  • When scientists began to measure the effects of exercising on mood and other cognitive functions
  • Exercising can help prevent the decline of cognitive function by 10-15 years
  • How do activity, movement and exercise change our brains?
  • When we move we are activating our “thinking brain”
  • Exercise does the same thing as a little bit of Prozac and Ritalin combined
  • Our brain cells grow as we use them and move around (read: you can make yourself smarter just by moving!)
  • A Duke University study (and many others) found movement/exercise can relieve the symptoms of depression
  • Once you exercise consistently for 2-3 weeks you will see a noticeable change in your mood
  • Exercise builds enzymes that help reshape and build the brain
  • How exercise can help mitigate the symptoms of ADD and other attention issues
  • Continuous exercise and movement can help bring stress levels down to a manageable level
  • BDNF is an antidepressant and antianxiety protein in our brain — it grows with movement!
  • Endocannabinoids may be more important than endorphins
  • Studies on how children learn better when they move
  • You don’t need to get to the gym! Short exercises throughout the day will do the trick
  • Brain shrinkage: how being overweight and sedentary can actually shrink your brain
  • This all comes down to: movement makes you smarter!
  • When children were studied, those who tested higher on physical fitness tests were smarter
  • When starting an exercise program don’t focus on long-term goals, focus on how you feel every day
  • Easy wins to get you started: 7 minute exercise and make gradual progress

Useful Resources Mentioned:

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

Driven to Distraction

Delivered from Distraction

A Classic Case of Post Production Burnout

The 7 Minute Workout

This Podcast Featured in:

My ultimate guide to building a healthy, ergonomic workstation.

Continue to Listen & Learn:

Sitting Is Killing You, But Standing Isn’t the Answer (And Neither is Exercise)

Ep23: How Being Sedentary Is Damaging You (According to NASA) | with Dr. Joan Vernikos

Tired of Sitting and Want to Ignite Your Energy & Creativity? Start Moving More.

Ep123: The Solution to Your Sedentary Lifestyle | with Ben Greenfield

Ep02: Deskbound – Standing Up To a Sitting World | with Dr. Kelly Starrett

More Resources for Moving More »

Our Generous Sponsors:

This episode is made possible by Ergodriven, the makers of the Topo Mat, my #1 recommendation for anyone interested in moving more at their height-adjustable workstation. Listen, standing desks are only great if you’re standing well, otherwise you’re constantly fighting fatigue and chronic pain. Not like any other anti-fatigue mat, the Topo is scientifically proven to help you move more throughout the day which helps reduce discomfort and also increase your focus and productivity. And they’re really fun and a great conversation starter.

Guest Bio:

John Ratey, M.D. is the coauthor, with Edward Hallowell of the books Driven to Distraction, Answers to Distraction, and Delivered from Distraction. He is also the author of Shadow Syndromes. In 2001 he published the book A User’s Guide to the Brain, in which he describes the human brain as a flexible muscle, which works on a “use it or lose it” basis. He is the author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (2008), which describes the positive benefits that exercise can have for people with ADHD. In 2014 he coauthored the book Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization with Richard Manning which discusses new evidence & case studies about the benefits of living according to the needs of our core DNA in the areas of: food, exercise, sleep, mindfulness, being outside, being with others, and our central nerve well-being.

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared and published by Jakin Rintelman. Special thanks to Krystle Penhall and Sarah Furie for helping to spread the love!

The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).

Note: I believe in 100% transparency, so please note that I receive a small commission if you purchase products from some of the links on this page (at no additional cost to you). Your support is what helps keep this program alive. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”