Exercise Can Train Your Brain | Key Points from the IDEA World Fitness Convention
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
I was feeling excitement but also pressure. If I could name 10 things I had just learned in the IDEA World Convention session, Your Brain and Exercise then I would win a coveted Inspiration Medal!
Those who are regular Fun and Fit followers know that Alexandra and I never saw a mic we didn’t like. Still, the prospect of recapping 10 points off the top of my head in front of 125 fellow fitness pros was a bit daunting. Darn that brilliant and beckoning presenter, Terry Eckmann, PhD, a Minot University Professor, who was presenting this session and another one I attended, Healthy Aging Survival Kit.
Motivated by wanting to bring you the best info on what movement can do for your cognitive skills, I focused. And stroked my notes lovingly. Then jumped up energetically recognizing that activity would increase my recall and memory! How convenient!
I took a deep breath and launched into Fun Fit Facts about our brains and learning. Take a “look see” at this list so you can gain all the benefits of a better brain immediately and throughout the rest of your life:
10 (or so) Facts to Apply to Your Brain Fitness Program
1. If we write something down we anchor that learning. (Works great now, but not as I walked to the front of the room).
2. Our brain weighs about 3-4 pounds, consumes 20% of the body’s energy, uses one-fifth of the body’s oxygen, and comprises around 2% of body weight. (two down; eight to go and I already wished I’d brought my notes).
4. Exercise can literally change the anatomy and physiology of our brain. In 30 minutes we can gain brain matter (who wants more dendrites and ganglia? I do, I do!), have better cognitive skills, improve our memory, increase alertness, and learn better.
5. Every decade after 30 years old we lose 10 percent of our ability to breathe unless we regularly exercise cardiovascularly (If you don’t want to huff and puff your way indecorously through midlife and beyond, then keep up the aerobic training which is also a great brain fitness program!)
6. Our brain loses 1-2 percent of volume after 30 years old unless we move and continue to learn. (Yes, active baby boomers have larger brains on average compared to sedentary ones. Yet another reason to get moving).
7. Good posture sends a message to our brain that we are confident, in control of our lives, and possess self-mastery. (I hope you like this tidbit as it’s so achievable!)
8. 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity:
- prepares the brain for optimal learning
- gets oxygen and glucose faster to our brain
- reduces obesity
- balances brain chemicals and system functions
(Got a test, presentation, meeting or high stress function coming up? Take a brisk walk or jog ahead of time. You’ll perform better. And you’ll be sweaty, but it’s a healthy price to pay for success).
9. When we exercise our:
- hormones balance
- attention increases
- adrenalin increases
- motivation increases
- brain chemicals balance
- neurotransmitters balance
10. To strengthen our corpus callosum, perform cross lateral movement — moves that cross the midline of the body, such as right elbow to left knee.
11. We best remember information and events that are attached to either a story or an emotional response. (Hmmm, nothing about lists and numbers enhancing memory, so I hope you wonder how this tale ends so you remember it!)
But first, a Freak Out Fit Fact: An obese person has twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s compared to a lean person. (Starting to think about exercising yet? Or are you exercising to think? Bonus either way).
For those who are active, you probably noticed more than 10 Fun Fit Facts. You’re welcome! But was I able to conjure up these points in 3 minutes with no prep? Or did the audience have to help me out?
Neither one (insert huge exhale here). As I ticked off item # 8, Dr Eckmann said she was convinced I was award-worthy and hit the applause-o-meter as she hung the award around my neck. At least I think that’s what happened. Since sitting down to type this, I can’t quite recall….
Slide Photo is allowed courtesy of Terry Eckmann, PhD. Yup, she’s smart, fit, AND nice!
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