What’s atop your wish list?

Do you think you’re getting that shiny new exercise bike you asked for? Or maybe it’s “Just Dance 3,” the super-fun new Wii workout, that you want? And did you just blast in from your daily walk, rosy-cheeked and ready to rip?

Awesome.

That’s your memory applauding, not just us YOU Docs. That walk gave you a jolt of something called (sorry about this) brain-derived neurotrophic factor, better known as BDNF. (Think of it as Miracle-Gro for your brain!)

We and many others have long been convinced that exercise improves mental as well as physical fitness, and we know it increases BDNF, so it seemed likely that the two were connected. But the specific links were elusive.  Now, four new, very different studies have concluded that exercise-boosted BDNF sharpens your memory, recall and ability to do tricky tasks (negotiate airport parking; manage your boss, who seems to be short on BDNF; or land eight tiny reindeer on a roof).

So if you-know-who doesn’t come through with that bike or Wii workout, buy ’em for yourself. Just say that your brain made you do it.

KEEPING COLDS, FLU AND HEART DISEASE OUT

Cold or not, if it’s sunny today, send the kids outside to play. It’ll get their bodies moving (and get them out from underfoot, so you get a break too!). It’ll also give them a shot at getting enough sunshine for their skin to make vitamin D-3. That’s tough in winter if you live above the line from Atlanta to Los Angeles, but it won’t hurt to try. Help it along: When they come in, serve some cocoa with D-fortified nonfat milk. Repeat daily. And make canned salmon and tuna menu regulars; they’re both good D-3 sources.

The YOU Docs — Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic — are the authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to www.RealAge.com.

Brain-booster

Four new studies show that brain-derived neurotrophic factor improves mental fitness.

  • Immediately after physical activity (riding a bike, running a maze), brain levels of BDNF spike.
  • Working out regularly makes your BDNF stay up.
  • Some people lose BDNF with age, making exercise even more important.

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