While I have never come close to having abs of steel, I have had a brain of mush, especially after a mentally taxing or stressful day. And while I’m (obviously) a big proponent of mindfulness for managing stress, I’m also a strong believer in the stress reducing, productivity boosting powers of exercise.
Challenging workouts create a healthy kind of stress in the brain. This releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, appetite and the sleep/wake cycle. Sitting for long periods of time has been linked to a multitude of health problems including cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and obesity, just to name a few.
Exercise also improves:
• Impulse control
• Problem-solving abilities
Keep in mind that our hunter/gatherer ancestors walked an average of 12 miles a day! They didn’t survive all those years by being sedentary. Our brains are better at working through complexities when we’re on the move, rather than when we are sitting at a desk all day.
Here are a few ways to use exercise to help your brain!
1. Exercise for Sanity not for Skinniness
Having a beach body has never been a great motivator for me, so I focus on the brain benefits, better health and stress-reduction, instead.
2. Meet Without a Seat
Forget stand-up meetings, try walking meetings instead.
3. Take Brain Booster Breaks
Every 90 minutes or so take a break to refuel that gas guzzling PFC and squeeze in some exercise during those breaks. Take a walk around the block or down the hallway.
Can’t tear yourself away? Do a few lunges, jumping jacks or burpees next to your desk.
5. Change Up Your Routine
If your afternoons tend to drag and you’ve got low energy by mid-day try moving your morning or evening exercise routine to your lunch hour. It’ll put more pep in your step to finish strong.
Remember evolution did not favor the couch potatoes, so take some time each day to sweat your stress and build your brain!
Try this 2-minute mindful listening practice to boost your brain during your workout!
If you’re watching or listening to the news while exercising, you’re probably not getting all of the stress-relieving benefits of exercising. While your body’s trying to reduce its stress, you’re keeping your amygdala amped up with story-after-story that simultaneously informs you of the world’s happenings and puts you in a state of panic at every sound byte.
Exercise can be some of your most creative problem-solving times. If you’re distracting yourself with media during a workout, your brain isn’t having the opportunity to process, innovate and make connections to different ideas.
You could be missing out on those neurologically based eureka moments that help you come up with creative solutions to complex problems. I recommend taking at least 2 minutes out of your workout to practice mindful listening.
For this 2-minute tip on how to not only de-stress with exercise but to also bring your mindfulness practice into your workout, watch this 2-minute video below.
Dr. Kristen Race
and the Mindful Life Team
P.S. My online Mindfulness and the Workplace course opens for registration in just 48 hours. This course teaches you the exact steps I used to get my work/life balance back. To jump on the VIP list and get a special discounted rate and priority seating, join the early notification list.