Exercise For Your..Brain?
Your brain is no different than rest of the muscles in your body - you either use it or you lose it. You utilize exercise to stimulate the growth of muscle cells, but you can actually get an additional brain boost by donning your sneakers and hitting the gym. The benefits of physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, have positive effects on brain function. According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions.
Exercise affects the brain on multiple fronts. It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It also triggers the release of a plethora of hormones, all of which assist in the growth of brain cells. Recent research from UCLA demonstrated that exercise increased growth factors in the brain—making it easier for the brain to grow new neuronal connections.
Using physical exercise to increase cognitive function is most effective within parameters, including time of exercise and style of exercise. Ballroom dancing, for instance - an activity with both physical and mental demands - has had a higher impact on cognitive functioning over exercise or mental tasks alone, indicating that the best brain health workouts involve those that integrate different parts of the brain such as coordination, rhythm, and strategy (hello, kickboxing!)
So what can you do to boost your brain with exercise?
- In general, anything that is good for your heart is great for your brain.
- Aerobic exercise is great for body and brain: not only does it improve brain function, but it also acts as a first aid kit on damaged brain cells.
- Exercising in the morning before going to work not only spikes brain activity and prepares you for mental stresses for the rest of the day, but also produces increases retention of new information, and better reaction to complex situations.
- Look for an activity that incorporates coordination along with cardiovascular exercise, such as 9Round.
- Opt for circuit work outs, which both quickly spike your heart rate, but also constantly redirect your attention.
- Hitting a wall or mentally exhausted? Try rebooting with a few jumping jacks, a lap around the building, or take 30 minutes of your lunch break to hit up your local 9Round.