Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Take a look at the following images I used in the presentation I gave last week at Rancho la Puerta Fitness Spa located in Tecate, MX. The Ranch is so wonderful and special that I wanted to make sure my session was as valuable. If memory serves me right, the following 7 factors will improve your recall, memory, attention span, and focus. ha ha ha Oh, and my presentation was well received too!
Before you get to those 7 things you can do to gain for the brain to the max, note that the key is to engage in CARDIO activity. While ALL exercise is thought to improve cognitive skills, cardio is top doggie. If you combine cardio with any of the 7 factors coming right up, you are getting exponential return on your exercise investment.
Yup, cardio has more benefit for your gray matter than crossword puzzles, learning a new language, sudoku, and international travel (though these are all helpful). Say, click that link <—- to read about how smart Nepal made me.
And we mean it. Steps as small as going left instead of right, or working out a different day or time than usual all register as new in the brain.
Hmm, are you starting to get any ideas about what kind of cardio activity might be best if your priority is to boost your brain?
The midline is the the line that visually divides your body into a left and right side side. If your right arm reaches to your left side, you have crossed the midline, for example.
Want a summary image you can pin? So do we! Pin away my hearties!
And on that final note, zzzzzzz. Or semi-final note. If you want to experience this presentation in its entirety, come to Tenaya Lodge’s Wellness and Spa Retreat Jan 16-18, 2015. That’s another smart move!
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
What lies behind the desire to “improve,” “remake,” or “change” ourselves? Ultimately isn’t it a pursuit of happiness? “If only this or that changed, then I would be happy,” is the implication. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. At least for 2014.
Meantime, both neuroscience and Outside magazine had the good timing to release a list of strategies that enhance happiness. Wouldn’t you know it, but the keys to being happy involve exercise, healthy eating habits, and playing (mostly outdoors).
If you are looking to add more happiness to 2014 then try adopting some of the the following habits. I listed the happy habits that I either liked the best, saw as easiest to implement, or validated my current values. To see the complete, original article read the January 2014 issue of Outside magazine.
I was a little surprised that early risers are happier people until I thought of the days that my get up and go got up but good! I always feel better when I get a jump on the day. Sure, we need to get in our 7-8 hours of snoozing per night. But we also need our Vitamin D. So the more time awake during sunlight hours, the better our immune system. It’s hard to be happy when ill; it’s easier to greet the day with a high five when we’ve gotten a good night’s sleep followed by an early rise. This habit is one I am working towards. Pretty sure this is really a sneaky way for me to have to set another resolution — get to bed earlier than midnight so I can wake refreshed at 6:30 or 7:00am, not the 7:30 that feels so luxurious.
If you read my post, A Tale of Caffeine and Dehydration, then you already know being dehydrated makes us — ok, ME — irritable. One supposition is that our neurons detect dehydration and warn the parts of the brain that affect our mood. Not enough water? The neurons hit the “bad mood” button. You’ll know if you’ve drunk enough water to improve your mood if your pee is clear or pale yellow. Wheeeeee Peeeeeee!
Imagine how happy I felt reading this as a group fitness instructor for the past 33 years. Want to work harder while feeling happier? Being part of a team or group increases your intensity and endorphin levels more than when you train alone. Could this be the year you try group exercise classes or continue through the year? I have space in my classes for you! Perhaps a master’s level team sport is in your near future.
Cardio workouts are brain boosters; exercise in general reduces stress; even a few months of activity can reverse age-related memory impairment. Now that you are so smart, remember that regular, ongoing exercise rewires your brain for the better. Low stress, younger brain, and a good memory? That spells “H-A-P-P-Y better than a crossword puzzle clue if you ask me.
Who cares the reasons?!* The fact that cocoa flavanols are good for us (in moderate doses) is just plain old good news. Enough said.
* For those of you who want the reasons, hold on a minute while I lick the dark chocolate from my typing fingers. Basically, chocolate (specifically the flavanols) releases endorphins and calms us. Yes, it’s all in the mind. And mouth.
Dark green veggies, turkey, salmon, tuna, sunflower seeds, walnuts, black beans, — these and other foods high in tryptophan or glutamine positively affect your neurotransmitters. Get naturally high without medication! How many of you noticed that eating happy foods causes the opposite of being dehydrated?
Who wants to hear me sing? Debatable whether this will enhance your mood. Hmmm. Or you can hear Alexandra tra la la in many of our past radio episodes. Also debatable about the effect. We can say that if you listen to music you like, you will pump out dopamine (happy hormones) faster than Ahhhnold Schwarzenegger pumped it up back in the day. Tunes you enjoy give you an emotional rush. I now await a music company sponsor for this tip.
Yes, it’s true and I’d be amiss not to confirm that genetics plays a role in your disposition. If born rich, I’d be happy! Oh, wait. That’s not really what we’re talking about here. Inherited tendencies determine about one third of our happiness level. So quit griping if your mom and dad were negative Norman and Nellie. You have two thirds of the story to write yourself. Especially if you follow the tips above!
I know I’ll sure be happier if you:
2) Pick up the phone or email us to book us to speak at your next meeting or conference. Call (805) 403-4338 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: Long ago in a faraway galaxy–also called pre-2008 or so–we thought the “grown up” brain was hard-wired and immutable. The exciting news coming from the brain research universe shows how much we have learned since then. In fact, our brains continue to change, rewire, and develop throughout our entire lives. Color me super excited by neuroscience!
Also changing are the rates of obesity. When Alexandra and I scampered through the recent IDEA World Fitness and Nutrition Convention, I made sure to attend the “Healthy Aging Survival Kit” session offered by Dr. Terry Eckmann. Her basic premise: “Our Reality is based on our Perception.” While this belief is centuries old, the scientific data to back it up is new. Such discoveries are especially relevant for those wanting to make life and habit changes.
A lot of what Eckmann revealed in her presentation dovetails with a teleseminar series Alexandra and I were invited to contribute to: Leave Obesity Behind. For those wanting to lose weight, the key is to recognize that change starts with our thoughts.
According to studies Eckmann referenced, we now know the following:
Alexandra: What kind of thoughts would you have if you were able to access over 25 experts in the field of obesity and weight loss? And if it were via a telesummit that was at no cost and had no catch? Yeah, me too – happy thoughts!
Our colleague Robyn Bennett decided to offer a program that would delve into healthy solutions for weight loss that address the mind, body and spirit. Are you sick of yo-yo dieting or emotional eating? As health professionals, we know that it is difficult to lose a lot of weight if you approach it from a simplistic point of view – “Eat less, Move more” is a good mantra, yet not complete. There has to be a part that addresses the mind, as that is where your power lies.
Kymberly: Remember– your perception shapes your reality. If you want to change your reality you have to shift what you think and perceive. For instance, what message do you see in this phrase:
For her “Leave Obesity Behind” event, Robyn has interviewed experts who are able to help you:
* Create healthy patterns for weight loss
* Improve your health at any size
* Find solutions for emotional eating and compulsive overeating
* Make exercise fun
* Quit negative self talk and start loving who you see in the mirror
* Teach healthy eating habits to your family
* Feel better about yourself inside and out
We aren’t selling the teleseminar because there’s nothing to buy. This summit goes through August 30, and this is the link to register for Leave Obesity Behind: Discover the Secrets to Eating Right into a Healthier, Sexier You. And of course, we believe you’ll enjoy the segments with us. We definitely offer some simple, achievable, non-painful tips!
Put on your thinking cap and take advantage of our YouTube channel that offers short videos to support your weight loss goals! Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please follow us on google+Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
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:
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:
(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:
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!)
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!
Does your event need education, motivation, and fit-elation? Call us to speak at (805) 403-4338 or email email@example.com.
Think your way to our YouTube channel for short videos that will improve your cognitive advancement and active aging adventure! Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please follow us on google+Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
So what news about boosting your brain through exercise did we glean from our brush with an intellectual celebrity?
(Ok, Dr. Ratey actually said “anti-aging,” but we are not against aging. We are for aging as actively as possible, so I reworded the phrase. Literary license, people!). Dr. Ratey stressed this heavily in his book and presentation: nothing compares to the effect of movement when it comes to living life “younger” as nothing makes our brain cells work harder than exercise.
While we may not see results right away from our workouts, we reap MENTAL benefits within moments. The super important neurotransmitter is BDNF — Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. BDNF activates learning when we perform cardio. As Dr. Ratey (aka, my BFF and dinner buddy “John”) says, “BDNF is a crucial biological link between thought, emotions, and movement. Our neurotransmitters offer ‘cerebellum training’ during and after each aerobic bout.” That clear-headed feeling we get from working out is literally a head full of enhanced brain power and activity. Dr. Ratey offered this “insta-result” fact as a way to motivate ourselves to move more.
New experiences and challenges enhance our cognitive skills (be smarter, stave off the odds of dementia, keep our memory strong, add brain matter and circuitry throughout life). Maybe we take a walk that goes left instead of right; or we change up our morning routine somehow. Perhaps we add intensity or complexity to an action we are already performing. Apparently the experiences we can create for ourselves to stay mentally strong do not have to be huge or entirely new. Even small challenges rewire our brains for the better. If you are in a workout rut, snap out of it (to quote Cher’s character in Moonstruck).
All mammals play, so the more we can bring joy and playfulness into our workouts, the better off our brains will be. At the very least, play reduces stress. Lower chronic stress levels are related to a healthier life and stronger brain. In short, make exercise fun. Does this mantra from Fun and Fit sound familiar? If your current routine A) doesn’t exist; B) is not fun; C) is ho-hum routine, then challenge yourself to try new activities until you find the ones you enjoy. Like how you can combine tips 3 and 4 here?
Those were the highlights from Dr. Ratey’s talk. If you are keen to get even more keen, read Spark, ideally right after working out… at Rancho la Puerta! That would be a really smart move!
Looking for a new experience? Subscribe to our YouTube channel and our blog. Follow us on Twitter: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Please also follow us on Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Or click on the icons in the right sidebar ——–>
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
For one, they train their minds as well as their bodies. Instead of being procrastinators — as in “I’ll exercise tomorrow when I am not so hot, tired, busy ( _______ insert excuse here),” — they focus on what they can do in the present moment, no matter how small. You can achieve your fitness goals more effectively by shifting just 5 phrases in your head from “Procrastinator” to “Peak Performer” talk.
Which phrases do you hear inside your head as you plan your workouts? Do you see the different perception of time between the performers and the stallers? Also super important is the perception of yourself as a person ruled externally (I should, I must, I have to) versus self-ruled (I choose, I decide). If you remember one key concept to train your brain to think more like an Olympian it’s to Have Presence in the Present. Focus on the Now. As in, leave a comment below or retweet this post now. Now, there’s a winning approach!
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: The brain is linked so strongly to what you eat and how much you move that its size, shape and function actually change. As your weight goes up, your brain size goes down. You do NOT want to become a victim of Dinosaur Syndrome – big body, little brain = extinct! Sadly, the brains of obese people look 16 years older in scans than they are. And Dr. Amen showed a picture of a very healthy 82 year-old brain, so age does not guarantee brain deterioration.
Kymberly: However, having a birthday this weekend guarantees age! Only 6 more shopping days until twinnie’s birthday. I hope she gets some new dendrites, ganglia, and neurotransmitters for her big day.
Having read 6 of Dr. Amen’s books, I developed serious brain envy, so for my birthday I plan to work out and eat healthfully. Right after the small piece of chocolate cake. I want to do what it takes to stave off any mental decline and have the heaviest, most active brain possible into my 90s and beyond! My real birthday wish is for you all to have the same!
A: The mind controls the body, not the other way round. It’s your brain that tells you it’s okay to eat a second helping of ice cream, and it’s also your brain that tells you to push away from the table. So here are some tips to help you put your brain consciously in control:
K: So, does your lifestyle enhance your brain power or detract from it? Remember, the choices you make today affect your brain TODAY and into the future. Hey, if my brain is the ultimate controller, why does Alexandra keep saying she’s in charge?
Dear readers: This seems like a perfect moment to direct you to our e-book/quotes that help you stay motivated and on track.
Dino photo: Creative Commons