You know that exercise is beneficial, but does it daunt you? Are you thinking that you must spend the time and dredge up the energy for running or going to the gym? Are you doing no exercise because you figure just a little is worthless? Well, it’s not worthless, and a little goes a long way. How about ten minutes of mild exertion — do you have enough time and energy for that?
One study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, determined that after only ten minutes of exercise showed immediate results on detailed memory and thought processing. This is great news especially for the elderly.
A New Perspective
What if you knew that just doing something to get your heart pumping faster for a short while would help you think, work, and remember better — would that make the difference?
You were made to move. Our society is making it increasingly normal to take the easy path: rather than go to the mall and walk significant distances to shop, you can instead get whatever you want delivered to your doorstep. You can get a riding tractor to turn your hour of pushing a hand mower into a few moments of sitting. But what if you consider those moments of exertion as friends? They are exactly that, because they will help you do the moving you were designed for, and in the process improve both your body and your mind.
At McMaster University, a study found significant but similar reductions in insulin sensitivity between those who did 45 minute moderate workout routines three times per week, and those who did 10 minute moderate routines with short bursts of high intensity, also three times a week. During the day, you may have tired moments when you just can’t think clearly and time seems to be dragging. If you are sedentary, it’s very likely your insulin sensitivity is poor. That will directly impact your thinking and memory, making the work day that much harder. Can you take a break at work, perhaps to just walk around and then take some trips up and down the stairs? Or perhaps you have some other creative way to move and get moments of exertion.
What is good for your heart is good for your brain. If you spend enough time exercising to break a sweat, you’ve had an impact on both. Once you have warmed up, perhaps you will feel like doing even more. Here’s a secret: activity is addicting. You might find yourself spending more time than you planned in exercise, especially if your activity is interesting.
Brain Benefits of Exercise
- Balance hormones. Hormones directly impact the brain and how you feel generally. If you need focus, you need your hormones in balance. Exercise starts balancing them from the moment you get moving.
- Increase oxygen supply. Well after you’ve exercised, your brain is still receiving increased oxygen due to increased metabolism.
- Disease resistance. You may be dragging some days because your body is working to fend off an infection. Exercise improves your immune system to fight the infection earlier and faster, so you may not even slow down.
- New brain cells. Even with age, there is evidence that you develop new brain cells — this is called neurogenesis. Increased metabolism aids the process.
- Preserve existing cells. Cells sometimes die prematurely, due to lack of nutrients, oxygen, or removal of waste. Exercise gives your brain cells a better environment in which they can thrive.
- Mood. Exercise often improves your emotional outlook, which affects your mind.
- Control inflammation. Exercise tends to reduce inflammation, aiding your body and your mind.
The University of British Columbia researched the effect of regular aerobic exercise on the prefrontal cortex (the thinking control region) and the medial temporal cortex (memory). Both regions showed greater function in participants who spent 120 minutes per week in moderate intensity exercise. Any exercise has benefit, both immediately and long after. A pattern of exercise will have continual benefits. A habit of exercise will alert you, when you get too busy, that you’ve missed your activity and are too sedentary.
Your mind works through your brain and your brain is part of your body. Your mind uses approximately 20% of your body’s total energy. You know exercise helps your body, and perhaps that isn’t enough motivation. Would the promise of a sharper mind make it worth your effort? Even if physically you feel tired after the exercise, your mind will be refreshed right away. Immediate payback — try it!
Dr. Nemec’s Comments:
Life is motion. These studies just confirm the power of exercise. Every cell in your body needs the movement of blood which carries oxygen and food to all the cells, including your brain. If your brain is starved of oxygen or food or stagnated in waste products because of your “lack of motion”, then can you imagine what happens when you go up and down the stairs ten times? Blood movement to your brain and everywhere else in your body! So get up and move and if you can think of nothing else just go up and down the stairs repeatedly. What is the difference between high intensity and low intensity? High intensity is required to sufficiently pump the blood through your heart to your brain. Going for a stroll in the park is good movement, but not as good for the movement of oxygen to the brain. So do them both. The more variety the better.