Google “fitness and the mind” and the second item that comes up in the search is a Harvard Medical School Study titled “Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills.” The crux of the findings is that fitness is about so much more than weight loss.
“Regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.” And the benefits of exercise don’t stop there. “Indirectly, exercise is a mood booster, clears your head, helps in mind depression, improves sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety.”
There is also a growing body of research around the connection between body and mind—how physical health is linked to mental health & brain health. Tangibly, fitness and movement might actually be your best line of defence before an intellectual challenge like an exam or a job interview.
- Exercise Boosts Memory
Everyone knows that exercise boosts us physically and mentally. What you might didn’t know is that it also increases our heart rates, which allows more oxygen to flow through to the brain. But that’s just the beginning. When we move, we release hormones, allowing space for more brain cells to grow and form new connections between cells in many important cortical areas of the brain to form.
Oona Series On-Demand: 30-Minute Dance Sweat
It’s a full-body workout for all levels and skillsets. Beyond the energy output you get—shimmying in every direction—exercise releases endorphins but dance releases the most out of any other form of exercise. You laugh, you smile, and it’s a way to let go of any pent-up emotions from the day. And that’s not all, research shows that dancing can improve your spatial awareness too.
- Exercise Increases Concentration
Scientific evidence shows that cardio can help sharpen your focus, assisting you to become more proficient at ignoring distractions. Add to that, the best-selling book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by Dr John Ratey, the associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, outlines research showing the short terms effects of exercise, such as the impact it has on your focus for the subsequent two to three hours. So if you have an important meeting or presentation, try to schedule a workout beforehand.
Oona Series On-Demand: 45-Minute HIIT With Jennifer
Targeting multiple muscle groups, building endurance and burning calories—a HIIT class ticks a lot of boxes. A total body workout structured in intervals, you can workup a serious sweat with no more than a simple set of hand weights and a mat. And if 45-minutes feels like a push, try one of the shorter sessions and blow off steam between emails and Zoom meetings.
- Exercise Improves Mental Health And Bolsters Creativity
During yoga, Pilates, barre and more, one of the refrains you’ll hear from your instructor is “breathe.” When we breathe, it helps us shift out from “fight or flight” mode, reduce our stress and anxiety and improve our physical health. We also release endorphins and serotonin when we move, dispensing a dose of feel-good.
Add to that, a quick class can help you take your mind off life’s pressing matters and for those 20- 30- or even 60-minutes, your focus is on ballet squats and high planks.
Oona Series On-Demand: 30-Minute Yin Yoga
A slower-paced style of fitness, incorporating principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, yin yoga helps you stretch and lengthen those rarely used muscles. Poses are held for longer and the results are not only physical, as the movements can also help to release mental blockages.