Share How Integral Physical Activity Is for Optimum Brain Health

Exercise can lift, tone, tighten and build your muscles, but did you know getting active each day can whip your brain into shape, too?

FACT: Exercise accelerates your brainpower because movement increases blood flow throughout your body.

Why Your Brain Thrives on Physical Activity:

  • Exercise changes the structure and function of your brain.
  • Regular movement improves cognition and your working memory.
  • Physical activity increases the volume and size of your brain.
  • Being active slows the process of aging on your brain.
  • Movement promotes neurogenesis, i.e., the creation of new cells (neurons), such as those in an adult brain — specifically, new neurons in the hippocampus brain region known for learning and memory.

So, Which Form of Exercise Is Best for Your Brain?
A pertinent question is, which form of fitness might have the most significant influence on improving your brain health? In a recent study, scholars examined which variety of activity might be most beneficial to your brain.

Since precedent research only examined distance jogging and its effect on brain vitality, this review analyzed high-intensity interval training and weightlifting against long lengths of cardio, such as running or biking. The result? Different types of exercise produced varying levels of neurogenesis, meaning all forms of exercise can benefit your brain and a true variety can have the greatest impact on your overall health. However, if you only exercise to improve your brain, this review suggests biking or jogging would be your best choice.

Exercise doesn’t need to be exhausting to enhance your cranial wellness. Movement like walking to the restroom each hour can help maintain a healthy brain. Since regular exercise offers so many mind-body benefits, physical activity really is for everyone – even those living with a chronic illness. A recent study found that mild mental exertion, such as reading, while exercising can actually improve physical activity performance for Parkinson’s patients. The authors propose that “cognitive arousal during dual tasks increases resources to facilitate motor and cognitive performance.” (If you have a chronic condition, you should consult your health care provider before beginning a workout regimen.)

Get Your Employees Moving at Work
Challenge your employees to pick up the pace and get moving during the day – every day. Our recipe for office movement is:

Keep it practical and get specific.
Share practical ways your team can create the healthy habit of moving more, for example, standing while they talk on the phone for a meeting. Standing alone burns more calories than sitting, which is one of the reasons why standing every so often to move more is good for your body. However, stagnant standing, such as at a standing desk, has the same effect on your body as sitting. The key is to move.

Communicate in categories.
Once you select a few categories to cover, such as taking the stairs at work or standing up more, round out each category of movement with supporting ways your team can do these activities in different forms. This will help you reach your employees by tailoring ideas to them. For example, if you share a communication that suggests taking the stairs to move more each workday, some additional challenges might be:

  • Take the stairs one level past your floor to get an extra climb in today.
  • See if you can climb a few flights of stairs during lunchtime.
  • Set a goal to climb a set of stairs and try to do one extra set.
  • When walking upstairs, see if you can skip steps to work your gluteus maximus muscles.
  • Climb the stairs at a faster pace to increase your heart rate and accomplish a brief cardio workout.
  • Make it a microadventure and climb the stairs to a new part of the building.

Explore custom topics, such as body awareness.
Help your employees practice body awareness. “Understanding how body patterns and daily routine can affect wellbeing is tremendous.” How many times in a day do you (your employees) move in patterns, such as crossing your legs in the same order when sitting? This idea can gesture to your team to change it up or move differently – thus helping them to consciously move more.

Don’t be afraid to emphasize the many benefits of exercise on total mind-body wellbeing. Even if the benefits are well-known and well-supported, it’s a good reminder for your team. One example might be: Regular physical activity reduces stress and helps to melt away tension. By focusing on the one task at hand, whether it’s biking or playing a game of tennis, you find that you let go of any nagging thoughts or tension from earlier in the day. A regular practice of this will help you remain calm and clear-headed in all activities.

Encourage your team to find what works for them by offering mini challenges. Daily prompts offer a platter of exercise samples.

Enlighten your team with additional materials. Everyone interprets information differently. Help your team learn more (if they’re interested) by sharing online videos, interactive resources, recent news articles or good ol’ books. You can even create or compile your own resources, such as a booklet on easy “Deskercises” or stretches and exercises your team can do at their desk.

The mind-body rewards for moving more are too numerous to escape. Help your team rejuvenate throughout the day, not just around their work schedule. Even if you or your team travels – for work, for fun or just for the day – there are several ways to fit in fitness.