A study had people exercise for one hour per day for three days per week, finding an increase in the size of the hippocampus over six months. Here, Vincent shares his tips to maximise the effect of exercise on the brain:
1. GO FOR CARDIO
Studies have shown that 30 minutes of steady-state cardio has the best effect on releasing BDNF. Out of all workouts, cardio has the best and longest lasting effect on the brain — and can actually increase the size of certain parts of the brain itself.
Try this: start with 30 minutes of cardio, three times a week. This can be anything from a brisk walk, to jogging, biking or rowing.
2. MIX IN EXERCISE THAT MAKES YOU THINK
Exercise that also cognitively challenges you — like agility footwork or dance — is thought to amplify the effect of exercise on your concentration. It’s good for the brain to have to try and figure things out while you are exercising. These don’t have to be complex calculus questions, but can be things like catching or hitting a ball (where you have to judge, speed, direction and body positioning) or doing drills on an agility ladder.
Try this: build your own circuit with a mixture of box jumps, jump rope and burpees, which keep your heart rate elevated and your mind focused.
3. TIME YOUR WORKOUTS ACCORDINGLY
The brain-boosting effect can last up to 52-minutes post-exercise, so the best time to exercise is right before you need that extra jolt of brain power.
Try this: exercising right before a big meeting or important call is ideal. During a regular workday, exercising on your lunch break is a great way to get a boost of mid-day brainpower.
4. REDUCE STRESS BY MEDITATING
Try doing an active mediation while you exercise. This is shown to reduce stress, which is very important for brain activity, since stress hormones like cortisol hinder focus and brain output.
Try this: focus on your exhalations by forcing air out through your breath. Push it one step further by attaching an emotion to your exhalations and breathing it out forcefully.
5. AVOID FOODS THAT SLOW YOU DOWN – MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY
There are certain foods that have a dampening effect on the brain, like sugar, which can raise and crash your blood sugar levels. Highly fatty foods can also make you sluggish as well.
Eat this: clean and healthy foods like dark leafy greens or colourful vegetables like beets, carrots and yellow peppers.