It’s that time of year again when many of us resolve to exercise more this year than last. What if only 10 minutes of high-intensity activity was needed to recharge your brain? Would you do that this year? Let’s explore some new research in that area today.
Can You Get a Brain Recharge with Just Ten Minutes of Exercise?
During that midday drag when the brain becomes sluggish and overworked, many of us will address it by taking a ten-minute Internet break or maybe getting another cup of Joe. A new study, however, suggests the best way to accomplish a brain recharge is to get the body moving for ten minutes.
The new study consisted of two groups of subjects. One group read in a sedentary state for ten minutes while subjects in the second group rode a stationary bike (at a moderate-to-vigorous pace) for ten minutes. The subjects in both groups then participated in decision-making tests that measured responses and accuracy. The result? The exercise group averaged significantly faster responses and more-accurate reaction times than their own pre-exercise measurements. This brain recharge was only seen in the ten-minute exercise group, and the exercise benefits are, naturally, only temporary, but researchers are continuing to study to determine exactly how long the cognitive improvements last after exercise.
Exercise Benefits for the Brain May Also Come by Way of the Gut
While the exercise benefits of even brief aerobic exercise may have a direct link to the brain, more regular exercise may also have an indirect link to the brain via the gut. I recently shared a study that found that aerobic exercise can actually improve the bacteria in your gut, and in recent years, there has been an association established between the brain and the condition of the gut microbiome (the environment inside the gut). For example, tissue fibers found in the brains of Parkinson’s patients have also been found in the gut of those patients, suggesting a link between the two. This resulted in another study that suggested that Parkinson’s may in fact begin in the gut before moving to the brain. The condition of the gut bacteria also appears to have an impact on the part of the brain that processes emotion. When the gut is overrun with unhealthy bacteria, this can negatively affect how we process emotion. If exercise can improve gut health, it stands to reason that if there is a connection between the gut and the brain, there may be a benefit to brain health as well.
So while brief bouts of exercise may quick-charge your brain and improve decision making in the moment, regular exercise certainly plays a big part in keeping the brain healthy and the emotions in check. The benefits of exercise, however, don’t stop at the brain.
The Never-Ending Exercise Benefits
With New Year’s resolutions right around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to review why exercise should be near the top of every list. If you aren’t exercising regularly, it’s a good time to start, and if you are, it’s a good time to reassess and set new and more challenging exercise goals. Recharging the brain and maintaining brain and emotional health and mental clarity are certainly huge benefits to exercise, but the benefits beyond the brain are truly never ending. Let’s take a peek at a small handful:
- Exercise (along with a healthy diet) helps you lose weight and maintain weight loss.
- Exercise may increase your lifespan, and it’s never too late to become more physically active.
- One study found that those who exercise 3–5 times per week had a whopping 46% less chance of dying from any cause.
- Exercise outperformed nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) at relieving knee arthritis pain.
- Exercise may slow aging by lengthening our telomeres, a marker of aging, thereby protecting our genetic information.
The upshot? It’s time to get back to an exercise program. Not only can it recharge and sharpen your mind, it also has many other benefits. In fact, it may be one of the most powerful drugs in the world!