My mother is struggling with early stages of dementia. She’s still managing plenty of things on her own, so I’ve been resisting both of our inclinations for me to take over the phone calls and paperwork she’s trying to get done.
I know these challenges keep her brain working.
I also know from my research as a health writer that this is not an inevitable downhill slide. Research is showing that we can reverse these cognitive problems at any age – even in our 70′s.
But my research on how much we can do for our brains isn’t just hitting home with her struggle – it’s hitting home with me.
I’m not struggling with dementia. But I do struggle to get things done and keep track of all the balls I have up in the air.
I forget things. I struggle to dredge up words . . . recall promises to clients . . . or what I was about to do when I headed down the hallway . . .
As home biz owner, mom and human being in 2012, I need all the mental power I can muster up!
And the most powerful, reliable, cheapest and easiest way I’ve found to increase my mental muscle is by exercising. I can feel the difference within minutes.
In fact sometimes when I’m just feeling stymied with a project, I’ll take a quick break and jog in place a little or do some jumping jacks.
It always gets me humming again.
Now, in a moment I’m going to share with you some truly mind-blowing research behind exercise and your brain. But before I go there, I want to underscore that there’s a larger picture to what I’m sharing with you here . . .
Reading this entire article and giving it some thought is much more than about knowing another way to boost your brainpower. I’ve got an underlying motive here that I’m passing on to you.
See, as I’ll explain over the next few articles, exercise is one of the best gifts you can give your body (and your business). But I know how hard it is to get motivated to get moving.
Even the idea of fitting into your slim jeans sometimes won’t do it – since that can take at least a couple months to accomplish.
It just seems too far off and maybe impossible when you’d rather be sitting on the couch.
Similarly, ideas of fending off heart disease or living longer often don’t cut it in getting us active. Unless we’ve faced off with a heart attack, the numbers on our test results are too abstract and their implications too distant to make us want to move.
So I want to give you something solid – some real motivation . . . things you can notice just about immediately in how exercise changes your life.
I want you to feel deep inside of you that eagerness to enjoy the benefits of exercise long before you see the pounds drop off (which they will). So you’ll be more likely to get there and enjoy those rewards as well.
With some of the insights I’m going to share with you here and over the next few posts, you can literally program your brain to want to exercise.
All you have to do is this:
1. Start off by reading this article and the ones that follow.
2. Let their meaning sink in – give them some thought
3. And then notice how they apply to you when you exercise and afterwards. See how exercise very quickly can change your day.
Just by telling your brain to pay attention to this cause-effect you’ll be setting up a self-reinforcing form of motivation to exercise!
So don’t cheat yourself, if you’re having trouble getting motivated to exercise, here are three powerful, immediately-gratifying reasons to go for it.
Immediate Business Benefit #1: Exercise Sharpens Your Focus
How many times does your mind wander off when you need it to stay put?
Well exercise can help you rope it in.
Researchers in Georgia working published a very important discovery in the journal Health Psychology in 2011, based on their work with overweight school children. They demonstrated that just 30 minutes a day of exercise increased the children’s math performance significantly – without any additional tutoring. The researchers used MRI’s to demonstrate that exercise helped increase activity in the children’s pre-frontal cortex of the brain, the place where you problem solve.
That in itself is a great find – exercise can help you solve problems.
But what about those intractable ones that take you twenty minutes or so – You know, the ones you have to really stick with – like my daughter’s trigonometry homework?
Researchers at the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have honed in on something in particular.
They found that simply walking on the treadmill increased your attention span. As the researchers explain the studies show that exercise provides a “disproportionately larger benefit ” to helping you take on tasks that require a great deal of mental control – or focus.
The researchers speculate that it may be because exercise actually increases the amount of brain matter in particular sections of the brain (more on this in a bit). Additional tests have shown that exercise may actually increase your brain’s processing speed.
Immediate Business Benefit #2: Exercise Protects Your Memory
How frustrating is it to feel like your memory is slipping! To not be able to recall if you’ve done a task or not . . . to struggle to dredge up a word that keeps eluding you – or a name – or a number.
Even worse, how embarrassing to be on a client call and not be able to pull up the words and references that you could have sworn were waiting right in the wings for this moment.
Memory is an essential part of managing your work well. As we get older, the specter of dementia and Alzheimer’s haunts us, making us doubtful about how we can manage many things, including business.
As I watch my mother struggle with her memory problems, I am constantly reminded of how much I depend on my cognitive power – and how important it is to do everything I can to protect it.
Well, exercise also brings hope in this specific arena of brain health. This same group of brain researchers in Illinois have been busy. They have also done specific research on older adults and how exercise influences their ability to remember.
They’ve shown that with adults over 60, fitness is directly linked to memory and brain processing speed.
Researchers in Pittsburg provided the explanation for this. When they examined older adults who exercised and older adults who didn’t, the researchers noticed a pattern. The size of the part of the brain known as the hippocampus, a key factor in memory, was preserved better in older adults who exercised.
In contrast, people suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia show a deterioration of this same part of the brain.
Further research shows that exercise actually increases the production of chemicals that protect your brain from damage. In one experiment, mice were exposed to a chemical that would damage their brain. However the mice that exercised before exposure did not suffer from the damage expected. They produced a special cytokine called interleukin-6. Interleukin-6 protects the brain from inflammation that has been linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
(Hard To Feel . . . But) Immediate Business Benefit #3: Exercise Helps You Actually Grow Neurons
It’s one thing to see the effects of exercise in terms of better focus and memory – but what about the idea of growing your brain, literally!
Well researchers out of the University of California, Los Angeles have demonstrated that exercise does this.
They took rats and gave them access to treadmills for a range of 0-7 days. Then they cultured cells from the rat’s brains and watched how they grew. The cells from the rats that exercised grew new extensions, neurites. But even better, the extensions grew longer in the cell cultures from the rats that exercised the most!
And even when they damaged some of the neurons taken from the rats, they found that the neurons taken from the rats that exercised prior to the injury grew back more frequently than the neurons from the rats that didn’t exercise.
You’ve got an immediate set of motivations to exercise . . .
Frustrated with a problem? Need to get more productive?
Can’t pull up that memory as quickly? Or feel slow on the draw during a phone call?
Simple, effective, proven.
And you can prove it to yourself as well. Just try it. Notice what happens and keep your brain thinking about the results.
By doing this you can really get motivated to exercise. You’ll want to keep doing it – almost instinctively.
Struggling to fit fitness in? Don’t let that stop you.
In the Healthy Home Business Fitness Module, I show you several sneaky, strategic ways to fit fitness into your workday. While not effortless (nothing good is!) it gives you a relatively easy way to make exercise part of your daily routine.
It’s risk-free with a 90-day satisfaction guarantee. And it works.
You can get the details here.