Rethink: If you think of exercise as something to ‘just do’, like a task to check off on your long list of things to get done in a day, you might be missing out on the brain benefits. Here is how to raise the quality of the time you exercise, to benefit your brain and your body.
Are you starting to notice small slips in your memory and less ability to focus? Maybe you have heard how exercise can help with brain function, especially as you age. However, because our society has a very broad definition of what counts as exercise, how do you know if you are exercising in a way that will maximize your brain benefits. It turns out that what you do when you exercise can be the deciding factor for how your brain benefits. Let’s rethink exercise for the brain so you get the most from every move.
When you are under mental stress, your body fatigues because stress is preparing it for movement. Like a car that is sitting in traffic, your body is revved up, using up energy, because it is ready to move but not moving. This increases the work for your body while putting healing and repair on hold until you are more relaxed mentally. Movement is the antidote to the stress response. This is why exercise can be so effective for stress reduction.
But exercise is not always effective for reducing stress because often your brain is still working when you exercise. When you multitask your exercise time in an effort to just get it done, it reduces the effects of exercise on the body and on the brain as well. A recently published article found that when workers took a mental break while on an exercise break at work, their brains functioned much better than those whose brains continued working during exercise.
While exercising, take a break mentally by putting aside any work or personal problems to give you the most benefit from the time you are investing in exercise. This study, like so many, reinforces that the brain and body are an inseparable two-way street. When you consider what is happening in both, you get more of what you want from exercise for your health and well-being. It’s a whole-person recharge because your body gets back to the state in which it can heal and repair and your brain get a memory and focus boost.
Take a moment right now to get up, stretch, dance, walk, move —without multitasking. If you are thinking you cannot take the time away from work to exercise, consider the return on your time investment. Your work productivity could increase and in the end get more done when you return from your exercise break. If your mind wont let go once you start to move, give it something to focus on in the present moment, such as being grateful for what your body can do right now or how good it feels to simply move and not try to accomplish anything.
Bottom Line: You hold the key to exercising for your brain. Move your body with present moment attention and raise the quality of your exercise time to give your body and your brain more instant benefits.
Enjoy Exercising WELL
P.S. One of the three principles of Exercising WELL™ is presence. If you have been told to use distraction to “get through” exercise or to multitask to get to a step goal, it’s time to start Exercising WELL.