If you were offered a pill that could do the following for your brain…
- Increase the growth of brain cells in your memory centre (hippocampus)
- Improve blood flow and nutrition to your whole brain
- Enhance your ability to learn and remember
- Improve your daily mood
- Delay the onset of symptoms of Alzheimer’s
…would you take the pill?
Most of us would say “yes”. But you don’t have to take a pill to get these benefits. All you have to do is exercise regularly and you can have all of the advantages above and more. In fact, the more you exercise, the more advantages you can accumulate. The easiest way to get more power from your brain is to take part in aerobic exercise for 20 to 30 minutes preferably daily, but at least 3 times a week.
Aerobic exercise is where you move the big muscles in your legs, hips, and your arms, as when you walk briskly, run, or swim, or use one of the cardio machines at your gym. This movement increases your heart rate and the depth of your breathing. This gets more oxygen into your blood which fires up the recovery process in your muscles and your brain neurons. As Dr. John Ratey explains in his book Spark: The revolutionary science of exercise and the brain:
“It turns out that moving our muscles produces proteins that travel through the bloodstream and into the brain, where they play pivotal roles in the mechanisms of our highest thought processes.”
In fact, Dr. Ratey has been quoted as referring to one of these proteins as “Miracle-Gro for the brain”.
If you need some more motivation, take a look at the YouTube video, 23 and 1/2 Hours by Dr. Mike Evans.
An easy way to start an exercise program is to start counting the number of steps you walk per day. You will need a pedometer, or you might want to go high tech and get a fitbit, which will track steps, distance, calories burned and even stairs climbed.
Here is what my friend Jeannette Folin says about using a fitbit.
“Being self-employed, I always thought my time was best spent working on generating income, not exercising. But after using the fitbit to track my daily exercise, I quickly discovered that I was billing 10-15% more hours during the weeks when I got at least 45 minutes of exercise a day. And now I realize that the exercise was boosting my physical AND mental energy levels.”
When you have some hard intellectual work to do or some important decisions to make, take 10 minutes first to climb the stairs in your building or take a brisk walk around the block. Then come back to your desk and reap the benefits of your re-charged brain for the next hour.