You need to move your body in order to keep your brain healthy!
It is common knowledge that movement and exercise helps keep our bodies healthy, but did you know that physical activity is important for brain health, too? Staying physically active improves our mood, helps us think more clearly, and sharpens our mental focus.
Research has shown that muscle movement activates the neurochemical system in our brain to keep our brain connections active and flexible. Physical activity also stimulates the growth of connections between cells in the brain, allowing for an increase in overall connectivity between and within regions of the brain. The great news is that exercise provides benefits throughout the lifespan, so even people at advanced ages can benefit!
With so much technology available today we tend to spend more time sitting than moving. This has consequences for our bodies and brains. While regularly scheduled exercise is great, you don’t have to engage in vigorous exercise everyday to get brain benefits. Even a simple activity like walking is a great activity for brain health because it increases blood circulation, allowing more oxygen and glucose to reach the brain. More oxygen and circulation to the brain has been shown to strengthen memory, thinking, and attention.
Find a way to move each day for physical and mental health. While 20-30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise is optimal, even 20 minutes of movement over the course of the day is helpful. Here are some ideas for incorporating movement throughout the day:
• Take the stairs instead of the elevator
• Go for a walk
• Limit the time spent on sedentary activities (computer, television, video games, etc.). This is critical for children, who should not spend more than 2 hours per day on “screen time” activities (and far less time is better).
• Play active games with the kids – tag, races, hopscotch, wrestle, shoot hoops, etc.
• Dance to your favorite songs
• Walk in place, do sit-ups, lift weights, etc. while watching television
• Go for a bike ride
• Join a gym
• Attend a fitness class – yoga, aerobics, Pilates, etc.
• When doing tasks that require sitting for an extended time period, get up and move or stretch for a few minutes every hour
• Play games involving physical activity on your Wii or other gaming system
• Join a sports team (for fun or competition)
• Ride a stationary bike while catching up on reading or listening to music
• Shovel snow, rake leaves, weed the garden, mow the lawn, etc.
• Run up and down the stairs throughout the day at home or work
• Clean vigorously – wipe tables, mop the floor, wash the windows, etc.
• Do an obstacle course with the kids
• Set a goal to do 100 jumping jacks (or another activity) over the course of each day
• Simple exercises throughout the day – squats, wall push-ups, run or step in place, arm circles, lunges, crunches, etc. Start with 1 at a time and work up from there!
What movement activities do you and your children engage in on a regular basis? For those of you who work in schools or therapy settings, what are some of your favorite movement activities to do with your students?