We need to move a little bit to a little more everyday. It is more important now than ever, due to the effects of COVID, according to Wendy Suzuki PhD, a neuroscientist at New York University.
Dr. Suzuki studies the neurological impacts of exercise, and she says that just a walk around the block or a 10-minute workout at home, gym or online will not only improve your day but also benefit your brain in a lasting way.
“Exercising to increase your fitness literally builds brand new brain cells. It changes your brain’s anatomy, physiology and function,” she explains. “Every time you work out, you are giving your brain a neurochemical bubble bath, and these regular bubble baths can also help protect your brain in the long term from conditions like Alzheimer’s and Dementia.”
This sounds great in theory…so why don’t we ALL do it! Well our team do, and most of our clients get out every day, but sometimes we all can lack motivation, that’s why the trainers at ALTA often step in with a friendly face and accountability to turn up each week.
Start by thinking of exercise — or any movement — as part of your daily routine for caring for your body, just like brushing your teeth.
Dr. Suzuki says, the immediate benefits of exercise can serve as more relevant motivators, “It’s really the new way to bring wellness to your brain.” A single workout increases neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline, and these mood boosters can also improve your memory and focus for up to three hours afterwards.
Not only can this help us in our work but it’s also incredibly good for our mental health. In August 2020, Dr. Suzuki informally tested this out with a group of students in one of her NYU classes over Zoom. Participants took a quick five-minute anxiety assessment, and then she surprised them with a 10-minute intensity workout. After they exercised, the students took the assessment again.
“What we found is the first time they took that assessment, they were scoring at close to clinical anxiety levels,” she recalls. “After a 10-minute workout, their anxiety scores decreased to normal levels. That is why you need to incorporate these bursts of activity in your day; it helps your mental health and it also helps your cognition.”
So, how much do you need to exercise in order to feel those benefits?
That, says Dr. Suzuki, is the billion-dollar question. Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer: 5 pushups or 10 burpees don’t automatically release a set amount of dopamine. In her 2017 TED Talk (https://www.ted.com/talks/wendy_suzuki_the_brain_changing_benefits_of_exercise?language=en), she recommends trying to fit in 30-minute sessions of exercise 3 to 4 times a week.
But the real answer — especially now — is to exercise for as long as you can, ideally doing a little bit every day. “Even a walk can start to give you those neurotransmitter and mood benefits,” she adds.
Many of the positive effects she mentions come from doing cardiovascular exercise — that is, any workout that gets your heart rate up. But even this can be more accessible than it feels. That’s what research in Dr. Suzuki’s lab has shown. “The more exercise you do — if you are successful at regularly exercising — the more motivation you gain,” she says.
Reference: Why your brain loves it when you exercise, plus 3 easy ways to work out at home Feb 2, 2021 / Mary Halton ideas.ted.com