Sunday, May 18, 2008

What the Sea Squirt Knows ... and Depression

One of the reasons I want to tell you about this book - SPARK - is because it contains one of our favorite stories ... the story of the sea squirt. I've heard this story in reference to professors who achieve tenure, and also civil servants of the same.

Ratey uses the sea squirt as an example of the relation of exercise to optimal brain functioning and thinking and his premise that only a moving animal needs a brain. The sea squirt, you see, is hatched with a rudimentary spinal cord and 300 brain cells. It has only hours to find a spot of coral on which to put down roots of die. When it does put down roots, it eats its brain. Ergo, only a moving animal needs a brain.

But that's just an intro. The book is full of the correlation between exercise and GOOD THINGS, such as better academic performance, alertness, attention, motivation and good health. Among the areas Ratey claims well-effected by exercise are stress, depression, ADD and aging.

Incidentally Ratey cites depression as the leading cause of disability in the US and it seems to respond particularly well to exercise (v. drugs).

Dr. Ratey, a psychiatrist, claims exercise relieves serious depression better than Prozac, citing the SMILE (Standard Medical Intervention and Long-Term Exercise) study at Duke University which found that both exercisers and Zoloft takers were equally likely to recover from major depression, but that the exercisers were more likely to still not be depressed 2 years later than people on Zoloft or who took Zoloft in addition to exercising.

How much does exercise matter?

Every 50 minutes of exercise per week correlated to a 50% drop in depression levels.

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