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September 7th, 2009
Run with Moe: Good exercise, good mind

Run with Moe: A column
San Marcos Runners Club

The last few weeks there have been some interesting stories out about exercise and running and how various individuals react to exercise.

Back in October 2008, Time Magazine came out with a big headline about “Our Super-Sized Kids” and the growing obesity problem of our youth. Then, back in March 2007, Newsweek came out with a headline of “Exercise and the Brain” and the premise that exercise helps keep us young and smart.

More recently, Time came out with the title “The Myth About Exercise” this Aug. 17, mentioning that if people run or exercise to lose weight, they are going about it the wrong way. The major point of the article is that people who exercise tend to eat more. The problem with eating more is that they eat more than they burn off in calories from exercise.

The article mentions that to burn off one blueberry muffin , a 154-pound woman would have to run at five mph for 33 minutes, vacuum for 92 minutes, ride a bike for 77 minutes or mow the lawn for 66 minutes. It seems like a lot of exercise for one blueberry muffin.

I can see the point that the author is making, but from talking with other runners and from personal experience, I don’t think the exercise and eating are that closely related. If you exercise more and eat more, then it should be true that if you exercise less you will eat less. If you see many ex-athletes that have put on a few pounds after their careers are over, it is because while they exercise less now, the appetite has not changed and the pounds begin to appear.

Maybe it is just the people I associate with in the running circles, but most will tell you that they run for exercise and if they run longer or farther they do not necessarily eat more afterwards. The article did mention that exercise and running had many other benefits that are very worthwhile, but that losing weight was not one of them.

With school starting this week, the next items were related to the benefits of exercise and keeping up good grades. Similar to the article in Newsweek, an item in the Austin-Statesman on March 10 had the title, “Fit Student, Fit Mind” and relates the results of studying 2.4 million students in Texas. Dr. Cooper of the Aerobics Clinic in Dallas mentions, “Exercise is the fertilizer for the brain”. His team of researchers found a very strong correlation between cardiovascular fitness and TAKS performance. The fitness level also affects the number of days a student attended school, and those fit students had a higher average daily attendance.

This week one of the Austin TV stations had a segment of a young girl who took this information to heart and now exercises daily and runs and plays sports not only to stay in physical condition but to improve her academic performance. She said she felt better and was able to concentrate more on subject matter and got more out the study period in a shorter time than before.

It sounds like not only will running make you a more fit person, but also a smarter person as well. More and more research studies are coming out that show very dramatically that fitness pays off in higher test scores and better grades in school. It always make people like myself, who are in the exercise science or in the physical education field, wonder why schools continue to cut physical education classes or load them with so many students that not much movement can take place in the short period that is allowed in a school schedule.

It seems that the big fear in schools today is how they will be graded on the TAKS scores in the spring, and whether they will be “acceptable,” “unacceptable,” or “exemplary” when the scores come out. It appears that the solution from most school districts is that the students need more time sitting down and reading or doing math problems to get higher scores.

Research shows that instead of sitting down, the students should be outside running around if they want to improve their test grades. If the schools do not provide the time needed to get fit, then weekend races or playing sports after school is something that the student wanting a good score in the spring will want to do by themselves. Why not only be a runner, but be a smarter runner?

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