Protecting your brain with exercise

“The first thing to incorporate into your life if you haven’t already done so, is to aim to engage in aerobic physical activity for a minimum of twenty minutes a day. Try and establish a routine you enjoy that gets your heart rate up by at least fifty percent of your resting baseline. Remember, you are creating new habits for a lifetime and you don’t want to get burned out easily. At the same time you dont’t want to get too comfortable and shy away away from challenging your body in ways that boost health and increase the brain’s longevity. 

To reap the benefits of exercise, make it a goal to break a sweat once a day and force your lungs and heart to work harder. Remember, in addition to all the cardiovascular and weight-management benefits you’ll gain from exercise, studies show that people who exercise regularly, compete in sports, or just walk several times a week protect their brains from shrinkage. They also minimise the chance of becoming obese and diabetic- major risk factors in heart disease.

If you’ve been leading a sedetary lifestyle. then simply go for a twenty minute walk daily and add more minutes as you get comfortable with your routine. You can also add intensity to your workouts by increasing your speed and tackling hills, or carrying a five-pound free weight in each hand and perform some bicep curls as you walk.

For those of you who already maintain a fitness regimen, see if you can increase your workouts to a minimum of thirty minutes a day, at least five days a week. This might also be the week you try something such as joining a group exercise class or hiring a personal trainer; maybe even dusting off an old bicycle in the garage. Opportunities to exercise are everywhere beyond traditional gyms. You can even stream videos and exercise in the comfort of your own home. As long as you do one of these activities, you will be on the path to better brain health.

Ideally, a compehensive workout should entail a mix of cardio, strength training and stretching, but if you’re starting from scratch, begin with cardio and then add in strength training and stretching over time. Strength training can be done with traditional gym equiptment, free weights or the use of your own body weight in classes or personal training geared toward this activity such as yoga, pilates and calisthenics. These classes often entail lots of stretching too, but you don’t need a formal class to work on maintaining your flexibility. You can perform many stretching exercises on your own, even in front of the television.

Once you’ve gotten a regular workout down, you can schedule your daily routines around different types of exercise. For example Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays you could take a one-hour indoor cycling class or personal training session; on Tuesdays and Thursdays you could hit a yoga class. Then on Saturdays you could go for a hike with friends or swim laps in a pool and take Sunday off to rest. I would always recommend taking out a calendar in advance, and scheduling your routine so you can plan ahead and keep track of your progress.”

Give it a go and let us know in the comments which activites you’ve started and how it’s all going. As always, please feel free to reach out for any more advice. 


Credit to David Perlmutter: Grain Brain.

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