I’ve been thinking a lot about exercise lately. No, not just because I’m an Exercise Physiologist with a Masters in Kinesiology, or because I teach 2 or 3 kick-butt spin classes a week.
It’s because I recently realized that, although I exercise most days of the week, and prioritize it as a non-negotiable in my life, my reasons for doing it are less about what it does for my body and more about what it does for my mind. It’s worth thinking about.
Watch the video below, or read the transcript that follows.
Sure, exercise brings with it a whole bunch of physical benefits for your body. It makes your muscles and bones stronger. It helps you regulate your appetite and manage your weight. It boosts your immune system, reduces stress, and improves your blood profile. It strengthens your heart and lungs, and decreases your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes… SO GOOD!
But I honestly think the mental and emotional benefits far outweigh the physical gains…or at least rival them. I often say “I exercise for my mind and my body reaps the benefits.”
Here’s why you should think more about what exercise can do for your brain:
From an emotional health standpoint, regular exercise gives you greater self-esteem and self-confidence. Think about how good you feel when you get that workout done… ahhh endorphins!
And when your efforts start to bring physical results; when you like what you see in the mirror, that often translates into a stronger belief in yourself and a change in how you carry yourself as you go about your daily business. People notice confidence. And when you’ve got more of it you also reach for bigger goals!
How? Well, your brain represents only about 2% of your body weight, but because it’s so rich in nerve cells, or neurons, it is the most energy-demanding organ in the body, using up to 30% of available blood sugar, or glucose in the body. Exercise gets blood flowing throughout your whole body, including your grey-matter.
That blood brings the brain vital glucose for energy, and good ol’ oxygen to soak up the toxins that are left over from all the work your brain has been doing. It also stimulates the protein that keeps neurons connecting.
So, when you exercise it’s literally a mind-clearing experience that helps you think better and with more focus. It reduces anxiety. It improves creativity, critical thinking, reaction-time, problem-solving, long-term memory and attention-span.
Exercise is literally a mind-clearing experience that helps you think better & with more focus. Move for your mind.
Think about the impact of all that to your career success. Talk about a competitive edge. MIND-BLOWING really!
It’s why well-designed workplace wellness programs are so important to an organization’s success. Research shows that fit employees are more capable than sedentary ones at thinking on their feet and producing results when they’re most needed.
For companies whose competitiveness rests on creative and intellectual horsepower, that kind of mobilization can bring with it a serious strategic advantage.
So, how much is enough? The research I read reported results with 30 minute efforts 5 times a week, so our Canadian Physical Activity Guideline of 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity will do it.
If that seems daunting, start with a few minutes a day, and increase the amount you exercise by five or 10 minutes every week until you reach your goal. Even the small efforts will send energizing blood to your brain. Watch my Intensify Your Exercise video for more tips!
Brisk walking or running are always great, accessible choices, but other activities such as swimming, stair climbing, squash, biking or dancing will also benefit your brain.
Anything that gets your heart pumping so you break out in a sweat, makes for one happy brain.
So, the next time you’re talking yourself out of your exercise because you have too much work to do, think instead about using it as part of your business strategy.
Schedule your exercise time first thing, or during your lunch break. There’s two reasons for this:
- Those who exercise before or during their work day have a higher level of adherence because they’re less likely to skip the workout due to late day emergencies or fatigue.
- The earlier you get moving, the sooner you can reap the full benefits of the brain boost it will give you.
In fact, on days where you have an important meeting or presentation, plan for a morning walk or run, so you’re firing on all cylinders – mentally, physically and emotionally – right out of the gates.
To learn about the programs I offer that can will help you set up a successful workplace wellness program, connect with me via www.michellecederberg.com. I’ll help you and your team find greater levels of health and productivity through your work day and beyond.
That’ll be good for you, and it’ll be good for your business.
Until next time, I’m Michelle Cederberg helping you transform your work and your life, one recharge at a time.