This blog post was written by Len Glassman, Fitness Coach at Nivati. You can see more of their content on the Nivati platform and on the Nivati blog. If you want to learn more about Nivati, click here.
How Exercising Helps the Brain Work in the Workplace
We know that exercise and proper nutrition help support your body and how it functions, but what about how it impacts your brain? Can we exercise our brain to make it bigger, stronger, and more resilient?
Believe it or not, the short answer is absolutely! Although the brain is an organ, it plays a huge role in controlling muscles throughout your body. Your brain acts no differently than the muscles in your body - either you use it or lose it.
So, what does exercise do to benefit you and your brain? Exercise stimulates the growth of cells in your brain and throughout your body. Think of your brain as the electricity that powers your body and all the functions and activities we expect from it. Or the computer chip that controls all the keystrokes and processes in your computer or the engine that powers your car.
Do Different Types of Workouts Do Different Things for Your Brain?
The short answer is yes, but more importantly, any type of physical activity promotes brain health and function.
Do you ever notice when you are performing physical activity, whether walking, hiking, swimming, or hitting the gym, that your body feels better and your thoughts and emotions are sharper, more relaxed, and happier? That is because when your brain senses physical activity and your heart rate increases, your body releases a ton of ‘feel good’ hormones, all of which aid and provide a nourishing environment for the growth of brain cells.
Recent evidence suggests that different aerobic-intensity workout types are associated with brain function and how the mind works. A Dartmouth College study sheds light on how ‘easy to moderate’ aerobic exercise affects the human mind differently than ‘high-intensity workouts’ over a full calendar year (Manning et al., 2022) as follows:
Light Intensity: Promotes mind-wandering and daydreaming; this stress-busting pace is relaxing and lowers anxiety.
Moderate Intensity: Facilitates problem-solving and connecting the dots between seemingly unrelated ideas; this is the sweet spot for flow state experiences and having "Eureka, I've found it!" moments during a cardio workout.
High Intensity: Cognitive benefits, such as verbal fluency and faster recall, are experienced one to three hours after completing a "red zone" HIIT workout. High-intensity workouts are great 60-90 minutes before a job interview or taking a test.
The bottom line is no matter what type or level of intensity, physical activity is a game changer for your brain, body, and even your career!
How to Exercise at Your Workplace for Your Brain
Ready to boost your brain power and put it to the test at work? How about trying a ‘workday workout’ for starters? Whether you are fully remote, hybrid, office-bound, or somewhere in between, there are simple ways to add some movement, stretching, and aerobic physical activity to your work day.
The key is to be creative and to think of physical activity as a reward and a way to respect your body at work so you can stay in touch with your ‘physical outlook on life.’
To find out how to fit exercise into your busy day, read my blog here.