If exercise were a prescription drug, it would no doubt be the most prescribed drug in history. Exercise can intoxicate. It can ease depression. It can make you feel younger. It can make you feel sexy. But did you know it can also boost your intelligence and cognitive functioning?
Physical exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, can provide a low-cost regimen to counter cognitive declines including memory, executive function, visuospatial skills, and processing speeds in normally aging adults, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). One of the reasons why exercise enhances cognitive functioning is, you guessed it, blood flow.
After all, it’s not rocket science, right? When we exercise, blood flow increases everywhere, which also includes the brain. Simply put, the increased blood to the brain increases energy and oxygen, which gives our brain a boost to perform better.
What’s more, according to another study conducted by NIH, the brain-related health benefits of exercise are not just for adults, but for children too. So yeah, kids really do need that freestyle exercise play on the playground every day. Recess is a nonnegotiable must-do.
Ready, Set, Go!
Just as little as 30 minutes a day can put you into the drivers seat to better brain and overall health. The key, of course, is being consistent and making exercise a part of your daily routine. Forget about being a weekend warrior and just keep it simple.
Now, if you’ve been holding back on the sidelines, step up and put some skin in the daily exercise game and at least strive for the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week. When you break that down, that’s just 30 minutes a day for five days a week.
Walking is by far the best brain-boosting exercise you can do. Good old-fashioned walking is especially good for your brain as it gently increases blood flow (oxygen and glucose aka brain food).
No, you don’t have to run or jog. Just 30 minutes of walking at your own heart-pumping rate works (you still want to be able to talk comfortably). Oh yeah, and ditch the hand-held weights and ankle weights while you’re walking. Just walk. Preferably with a friend.
Warm Up and Stretch
Before you stretch, perform some low intensity exercises to warm up the muscles. Stretching the muscles before the body is warm is ineffective and could potentially cause an injury. Do some light calisthenic exercises like walking in place, jumping jacks and other similar exercises until you feel that first bead of perspiration. Then stretch. Ideally, you want to perform static stretches, which you hold for 10, 20, or 30 seconds. And remember, no bouncing!
Pay Attention to Your Posture
Walking also requires good form and posture. Remember to stand tall, shoulders back and down, and keep your core engaged.
Spice it Up With Interval Training
If you’re strong enough and feeling ambitious, step up your routine with interval training. An easy interval program could look like this: Three minutes of walking, followed by one minute of jogging, and 30 seconds of jump rope. Repeat for 30 to 45 minutes.
There were always plenty of good reasons to start or maintain an exercise plan. Now you can add exercise’s brain-boosting benefits to your motivational plan. If that weren’t enough, experience that natural high in your brain, which will enhance your optimism and feel-good vibrations.