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5 ways exercise (even a little!) boosts your brainpower

women walking meeting conference exercise Want to make your meeting productive? Try taking it out of the conference room.
Credit: ThinkStock

Research is pointing firmly to sitting as the new smoking. While most people know that exercise can curb obesity, heart disease and even certain types of cancer, it also has immediate effects on brainpower. “Physical exercise turns our brain on,” says John Ratey, a psychiatry professor at Harvard University.

As it’s become widely accepted that some form of aerobic workout is the most beneficial, harder regimens like CrossFit and endurance races have popularized. A jog around the block no longer seems adequate. But that’s not so.


Ratey, a 66-year-old exercise advocate who has been known to make his audiences do Hindu squats, wants to take the focus off people’s choice
of activity. You don’t have to push yourself to the limit to gain the benefits of exercise, he says: “Get out and walk!”

1.Improve your meetings

Some of the most creative companies in the world like Google, Facebook and Apple are known for their walking meetings. Interestingly, the surroundings and environment don’t greatly impact thinking, according to a recent study: “I thought walking outside would blow everything out of the water, but walking on a treadmill in a small, boring room still had strong results, which surprised me,” explains co-author Marily Oppezzo.

exercise free weights bicep curls woman gym

2.Enjoy a lifetime of learning

Getting your body moving will improve your ability to retain and manipulate information. “Doing exercise promotes improvement overall in our capacity to learn,” Ratey says. “What it does in the brain is immense and it really improves the brain’s ability to be [adaptable]. The only way we learn anything is to have ourselves grow at the nerve cell level, so exercise is the best promoter of that.”

3.Become a morning person

A quick trot up to the office might just be what’s needed to prevent that morning meeting sluggishness. In a recent study, researchers from Stanford University found that even a 10-minute walk stimulates creativity inside the brain. “[Study subjects] who were walking were more talkative than those sitting down — their ideas are more active and more urgent in streaming out,” study
co-author Dan Schwartz
tells us.

4.Stay at the top of your game

Being active is vital to preventing the onset of cognitive decline that causes dementia and Alzheimer’s, which can’t necessarily be kept at bay through brain teasers like Sudoku and crosswords alone.

5. Runner’s high is real

Aside from the long-term benefits, there’s also that feel-good factor: The neurotransmitters serotonin (pleasure), noradrenaline (concentration) and dopamine (alertness) are all released during exercise.

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