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Exercise Can Train Your Brain | Key Points from the IDEA World Fitness Convention

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

IDEA Brain and Exercise sessionI 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).

3. We have about 50-70,000 thoughts per day (Such as “what if I blank at #9? Do I still earn the medal?).Brainiac Maniac

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!)IMG_2992

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).

Inspiration Award from IDEA 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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About Fun and Fit

Get practical exercise advice, your fitness questions answered, and cutting edge health edu-tainment that is accessible and doable from long time fitness experts, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. We have taught on land, sea, and airwaves for 3 decades on 4 continents. From writing to speaking, emceeing to hosting a radio show, reviewing products to teaching classes, we believe that little steps turn into big paths. Move a little more than the day before. FitFluential Ambassadors and award-winners both online and off.

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13 Responses to Exercise Can Train Your Brain | Key Points from the IDEA World Fitness Convention

  1. Tamara August 19, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    Way to go Ms Brainiac (or is it Ms Rememberiac?). I am a consummate list maker; writing things down solidifies them in my brain. But then again, I do a lot of the other things in your list too.

    Here’s hoping the next 10 years are good to my cerebral cortex!
    Tamara recently posted..Muscle fatigue vs muscle soreness vs muscle strain | what’s the difference?My Profile

  2. Jody - Fit at 55 August 19, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    Wait, I just forgot what I read – what does the brain do for me??? ;) Really interesting post!!! I have to make note of this. for me, I tend to move on so quickly from a thought that I forget it a second later – I need to spend more time on this!

    Great post!! Congrats!!!!
    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted..Gratitude Monday, Family, Bread & More!My Profile

    • Fun and Fit August 19, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

      Hold on there Golden One. I think you just added funny to your repertoire despite your claims to the contrary. Let me lay another Brain Fact on you — The brain has about 100,000 miles of blood vessels and gets about 8 gallons of blood per hour.
      Fun and Fit recently posted..Transformative Travel: 11 Helpful Tips for TravelersMy Profile

  3. Christine @ Oatmeal Bowl August 19, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    Constantly on my daughter about 7. The same goes for me when I look in the mirror. “stand up straight”. makes a ton of difference in the tude. So we think that many thoughts. No wonder I am stressed and need meditation daily. ;)
    Christine @ Oatmeal Bowl recently posted..Lake Tahoe Marathon Training: Week 10My Profile

  4. Dr. Lynn K. Jones August 20, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Loved this article and it got me to sit up straight! You are right that is so attainable and I feel more self confident already. Thanks for all your great tips–so perfect for this boomer fun and fit fan!

  5. Kim Jorgensen Gane August 20, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    Excellent advice, thanks for sharing!

  6. Mike Luque August 21, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    Nice article. As someone who is very specific with my clients in how they breathe, #5 really stood out. Next time a client starts to gripe about my specificity, I’ll throw that little factoid at them.
    I also really liked #10, although I had to look up what the corpus callosum is and what it does. And it totally makes sense that cross body motions would increase interhemispheric communication. Thanks!
    Mike Luque recently posted..The great sea salt myth. Sorry, y’all, there’s no minerals in there.My Profile

  7. Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana August 24, 2013 at 7:09 am #

    The image of you stroking your notes lovingly actually made me LOL. I particularly like #8. Hell, if people knew the benefits of just 30 MINUTES of exercise, seems like they would make that happen, right? Right? Sighs… :)
    Suzanne @WorkoutNirvana recently posted..Smart Training Strategies for Muscle DefinitionMy Profile

  8. Bobby Crider September 30, 2013 at 4:23 am #

    Exercise can give us numerous healthy benefits. Diabetes is not an easy condition, if we let it complicate, there would be a higher change it will affect other body parts and will lead us to death.


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