As you may have seen me mention on Instagram, I recently listened to Shawn Stevenson’s podcast on “15 Ways Exercise Makes Your Smarter, Younger and More Successful”… and I was totally inspired!
Yes, I love exercise, and yes, I know its good for the body, but Shawn really brought it to a whole new level. I was specifically motivated by the many correlations between exercising and increasing the health of our brains – because who doesn’t want a big, sexy brain!?
First, lets back up… I think it is fair for me to assume that at this point, you know exercise is good for the body, and you may even know some of the reasons why. Exercise has been shown to increase heart health, boost detoxification, strengthen the immune system, combat depression, increase energy, boost self esteem, prevent aging, support stability and strength, and increase healing – just to name a few. All incredibly good reasons for you to get up and get moving!
But do you know about all the ways exercise supports the health of our brain!? If you did, high five (and lets hang out so you can teach me) and if not, me either, but this is some really exciting stuff!
Here are a few of the ways Sean explains how exercise supports (and enhances!) our brains:
1. Exercise increases our focus.
Dr. John Ratey has done a lot of work around exercise and focus, particularly with ADD and ADHD. His website states:
“Regular exercise can raise levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, and improve functioning of brain systems that regulate impulse, memory and attention.”
He explains that the area of the brain that controls physical movement (exercise) is the same area that coordinates the flow of information, so by activating this area while we move our bodies, we are also strengthening it to better handle the flow of information and the ability to focus or attention with less distractions! Pretty cool, right!?
Sean suggests getting a workout in before a big presentation or work day so you are on your A game – more focused, less distracted, better results!
2. Exercise improves our long-term memory.
There have been many studies that have found a clear connection to exercise and long-term memory, across all different age groups. This is because exercise puts our body in a “heightened state” where memories are more likely to stick. Additionally, by increasing our heart rate and strengthening our cardiovascular system, the body pumps more blood (aka fresh oxygen) to the brain, keeping it happy and healthy.
3. Exercise has been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Just as brain exercises have been shown to strengthen memory and prevent brain deterioration, physical exercise has been shown to increase brain plasticity, which is the brains ability to adapt and change. By increasing brain plasticity, we slow down the natural deterioration of the brain as we age.
4. Exercise increases productivity.
When you make time to sweat / move / stretch / get outside, you will be more productive, plain and simple. In the workplace, it has been shown that employees who incorporate some kind of movement into their day are shown to remain more focus, be nicer to coworkers, and produce more (and better) results.
This makes a lot of sense. I know for me, if I am sitting and working for hours, whether it be talking on the phone with clients or in front of the computer, I feel stagnant. I feel tired. My motivation dies. But, I also know to remedy this I just need to get up, step away from whatever I am working on, even just for a few minutes, and move my body! It changes everything! Have you ever tried it?
And last but not least…
5. Exercise (and sleep) increase the natural detoxification system of the brain and nervous system.
Yes, the brain and central nervous system have their own detoxification system, and I am freaking out about it!
According to Dave Asprey, who wrote a post on “How To Detox Your Brain By Hacking Your Glymphatic System” he describes the glymphatic system as follows:
In 2012, researchers identified this new maintenance system called the glymphatic system, which uses the cells’ mitochondria to remove cellular waste from the brain. It found that the clear cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain is what is responsible for draining toxins from the brain, much like how the lymph system in other organs is what removes waste from those cells to the kidney and liver. But the brain has no lymph – it has CSF instead.
The scientists noted that this system is particularly active during sleep. In other words, as you sleep your brain cells’ mitochondria remove cellular waste. If you improve your mitochondrial function during sleep, you’ll turbocharge your brain’s maintenance system and get more cleanup done in fewer hours of sleep.
Improving your mitochondrial function = a more efficient glymphatic system. And because muscles contain the highest amount of mitochondria of any tissue in the body (to supply energy for movement) you want to KEEP MUSCLES HAPPY BY EXERCISING!
And just in case you needed a little more inspiration, Sean also threw this one in there…
“Your future you, your future body, your future mind, are being created with the things that you are doing right now. Especially the things that you do on a regular basis.”
Sometimes we know we should be doing certain things but just need a little motivation or inspiration! Now get outside, move and strengthen your brain (and body)!!