Stressing over Exercise?

You know that you should exercise, right? It’s kind of like eating your vegetables or reading “improving books.” Or is it something more? A recent book, Spark: The New Science of Exercise and the Brain, which is reviewed by Shane Parrish, tells us how exercise does more than simply allow us to consume more calories or provide cardiovascular benefits.

Modern life, as we all know, can be full of stress. Neuroscientists can actually point to physiological ways that stress messes you up.

If mild stress becomes chronic, the unrelenting cascade of cortisol triggers genetic actions that begin to sever synaptic connections and cause dendrils to atrophy and cells to die; eventually, the hippocampus can end up physically shriveled, like a raisin.

Think of exercise, this book suggests, as a way to drain stress from your life. But don’t take my word for it. Those same neuroscientists who have been poking around at your cortisol and dendrils have also demonstrated how exercise can keep the dendrils happy. We all want happy dendrils, don’t we?

While all of this might seem like triumphalist science explaining everything and rendering God unnecessary, nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, these discoveries simply confirm what believers have known for centuries. We are wonderfully and fearfully made. With each new discovery science sees more of that.

Now if you’ll pardon me, my dendrils are suffering.  I need to head to the gym.