Exercising the brain. Is physical activity the best medication? October 10, 2016 News A friend of mine has just started working from home and it all feels a bit strange. So she’s decided to go for an early morning walk every day, a rite of passage to mark its beginning. When she returns home, she’s working. And maybe her cognitive performance will improve as well. John Ratey, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard, suggests that people should think of exercise as medication. Even very light physical activity improves mood and cognitive performance by triggering the brain to release dopamine and serotonin, which is what stimulant medications do…but without the side-effects. We often think of exercise as helping our hearts; but Ratey re-locates its value, with implications for our work. Physical exercise, he says ‘is really for our brains,’ with improved attention and ability to maintain alertness. My friend’s brisk early morning walk sounds like a very good idea.