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Free Brain Exercise: Two Feet of Free Therapy

Guess what?! There is this amaz­ing ther­apy that is free for every­one. All you need is two feet (and many very accom­plished prac­ti­tion­ers don’t even have that!). … It’s called exer­cise!

All kid­ding aside, there is more and more evi­dence com­ing to light about how your brain health is intri­cately inter­twined with the health of the rest of your body. The IHRSA Well­ness Report posted “In addi­tion to build­ing strength, exer­cise ben­e­fits men­tal health” yes­ter­day.

Exer­cise improves blood flow to the brain, it helps the body detox­ify, it puts you on a bet­ter cycle of phys­i­cal behav­ior, and it leads to decreased stress. It also improves think­ing and men­tal func­tion and decreases your ten­dency toward addic­tion,” said Dr. Marc Siegel, an internist at New York Uni­ver­sity Med­ical Cen­ter and an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of med­i­cine at the NYU School of Medicine.


Exer­cise is also an excel­lent anti­de­pres­sant. Accord­ing to James Mad­dux, a psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor at George Mason Uni­ver­sity and expert on the mind-body health con­nec­tion, “there’s evi­dence that exer­cise is maybe the best non-pharmacological anti­de­pres­sant we have — stud­ies have shown that it works bet­ter than some drugs. It’s also a great anti-anxiety inter­ven­tion”.

So, for an invest­ment of maybe 3 hours a week, you get: a detox treat­ment, improved think­ing, and decreased stress, anx­i­ety, depres­sion, and addic­tive ten­den­cies. Not a bad deal! Not to men­tion weight loss, increased energy, and social­iza­tion (if you join a club, gym, or team). An inter­est­ing com­po­nent to the stress reduc­tion is not just the phys­i­cal burn­ing up and removal of stress hor­mones, but also the sense of con­trol that a reg­u­lar work­out gives you. The sense of auton­omy you get by tak­ing con­trol of your health is a great stress reliever.

If you play sports, you are get­ting quite a bit of men­tal stim­u­la­tion packed in with your car­dio­vas­cu­lar work­out. I hap­pen to play ten­nis which gives me end­less brain exer­cise by try­ing to fig­ure out what is and how to hit the right shot at the right time in order to beat the per­son on the other side of the net who is try­ing to do the same thing! But other sports that involve strat­egy and skills will give you the same brain work­out. If you pre­fer to walk, run, or use the machines in a gym, then use that time to focus on your breath­ing and/or tech­nique so that you get a med­i­ta­tive work­out. You feel extra refreshed when you’re done!

As men­tioned above, teams, clubs, and gyms also add to your social net­work which can help you stick with your pro­gram when your moti­va­tion is lag­ging. Sign up with a buddy, set some goals, and help keep each other going. Just be sure to get your heart rate up in your tar­get range for at least 20 min­utes, 3 times a week to reap the ben­e­fits of aer­o­bic exercise.

With a good work­out, you can accom­plish 3 of the 4 brain fit­ness pil­lars at one time: men­tal stim­u­la­tion, phys­i­cal exer­cise, and stress man­age­ment. Add in a bal­anced diet, and you’re ready to go! And as always, cross train by adding vari­ety and nov­elty to both your men­tal and phys­i­cal workouts.

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12 Responses

  1. Neal Cohen says:

    Some peo­ple ben­e­fit from using a per­sonal trainer. Unlike exer­cise, which is hope­fully a life long com­mit­ment, a per­sonal trainer can be used in a lim­ited fashion.

    Some peo­ple ben­e­fit from a per­sonal trainer in the early stages of an exer­cise pro­gram. In a sense, the trainer helps the indi­vid­ual get “up and running.”

    Other peo­ple may ben­e­fit from uti­liz­ing a trainer when they start to feel “stale” or when it appears that enthu­si­asm is wan­ing. If the per­sonal trainer will train two peo­ple at the same time, a train­ing part­ner can help man­age the expense of per­sonal train­ing. An addi­tional ben­e­fit of shar­ing the expense of a trainer is that when train­ing ser­vices are no longer needed, one has the train­ing part­ner for ongo­ing support.

    I expect that in the near future brain fit­ness will be fully inte­grated into all aspects of self care; once can then expect a brain fit­ness eval­u­a­tion as part of an over­all fit­ness evaluation.

  2. Caroline says:

    Great com­ment Neal. Coaches and/or train­ers are a great asset when learn­ing any­thing. Whether a tutor for a new class, a trainer for a new fit­ness pro­gram, a lifestyle coach, or any­one else. I have a won­der­ful coach for ten­nis who helps me avoid frus­tra­tion (stress) by giv­ing me help­ful advice as I need it and just in gen­eral sup­ports my endeavor to improve. Hav­ing sup­port makes a big dif­fer­ence at all lev­els, whether you use that coach­ing on a daily, monthly, or yearly basis.

  3. eleanor says:

    I missed a swim­ming ses­sion this week due to flu — and I’ve really noticed the difference!

    The Gov­ern­ment is really start­ing to push fit­ness and exer­cise (but not brain fit­ness.. yet!) here in the UK, as child obe­sity rates are now the high­est in Europe, and it’s been pre­dicted that our National Health Ser­vice could actu­ally be bank­rupted by the increas­ing prob­lems asso­ci­ated with it.

  4. Caroline says:

    Sorry to hear about the flu Eleanor! Hope you can hit the pool again soon.

    Good to hear phys­i­cal exercse is being pro­moted — now we just need to let the pow­ers that be know about brain exer­cise so that every­one uses ALL of their mus­cles (both men­tal and physical!).

    Get well soon!

  5. […] Car­o­line Latham presents Two Feet of Free Ther­apy posted at Sharp­Brains: Your Win­dow into the Brain Fit­ness Rev­o­lu­tion, say­ing, “Here is a post on the pos­i­tive men­tal ben­e­fits of phys­i­cal exercise.” […]

  6. Todd Gebow says:

    I was involved in an acci­dent that resulted in a brain injury. I had accepted the fact that I was going to be an obese, phys­i­cally dis­abled indi­vid­ual for the rest of my life. Tht was until I met a per­son that showed me the proper way to exer­cise and con­trol my breath. I am now an exer­cise addict (great, another addic­tion) and I am in school to be a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist.
    Exer­cise is more than ben­e­fi­cial for you car­dio­vas­cu­lar, cir­cu­la­tory, and mus­cle health. It has amaz­ing ram­i­fi­ca­tions upon your men­tal health. Once the body becomes syn­cronized, it eases the men­tal strain upon ones mind. It allows eas­ier and more free thought because the thought process is not always involved in thoughts of, “Is this right? Does it look ok?“
    I am still phys­i­cally dis­abled and will be for life but I no longer see myself as some­one who is in need of assis­tance All because I learned to exer­cise properly.

  7. Caroline says:

    Wow. Good for you, Todd. You will be such an exam­ple to other peo­ple — not only dis­abled but also peo­ple who face less phys­i­cal obsta­cles. Good luck in school and keep work­ing out!

  8. […] Car­o­line Latham presents Two Feet of Free Ther­apy posted at Sharp­Brains: Your Win­dow into the Brain Fit­ness Rev­o­lu­tion, say­ing, “Here is a post about phys­i­cal exer­cise being great brain exer­cise. Thanks!” […]

  9. […] Car­o­line Latham presents Two Feet of Free Therapy. […]

  10. […] — If you can only do one thing, do some­thing car­dio­vas­cu­lar, mean­ing some­thing that gets your heart beat­ing faster. This includes walk­ing, run­ning, ski­ing, swim­ming, bik­ing, hik­ing, ten­nis, bas­ket­ball, play­ing tag, ulti­mate Fris­bee, and other sim­i­lar sports/activities. […]

  11. […] What can we do to main­tain our brain, espe­cially the frontal lobes? Focus on four pil­lars of brain health: phys­i­cal exer­cise, a bal­anced diet, stress man­age­ment, and brain exer­cise. Stress man­age­ment is impor­tant since stress has been shown to actu­ally kill neu­rons and reduce the rate of cre­ation of new ones. Brain exer­cises range from low-tech (i.e. med­i­ta­tion, mas­ter­ing new com­plex skills, life­long learn­ing and engage­ment) to high-tech (i.e. using the grow­ing num­ber of brain fit­ness soft­ware programs). […]

  12. kinu says:

    hmmmm thats cool exer. i m doing it and my mind is tired now.…

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