An article I spotted on Fast Company today confirmed what I’ve already known: Exercise is a huge brain booster. Anyone who’s active can attest to the increase in brain mojo after a good workout. For me, it’s where I find new solutions to creative problems that have been nagging me.
In a previous job, I cycled to work almost every day. That 40-minute commute allowed me to think about upcoming topics for my magazine, rehearse what I planned to say to my egomaniacal CEO in meetings and work through the stress of the previous days (not to mention prepare me for the stress I would face as soon as I stepped through the door.). My best ideas come to me when I’m on my bike…or in the gym or out for a jog/walk with my kiddo.
Now an increasing number of studies are revealing that exercise does more than help you tone up and relieve stress, it also helps you learn better and improves your brain function. A few of the reasons the article cites include the boost in oxygen to the brain from the increase in blood flow and better cognitive function from a more active hippocampus.
In the book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, the author, Mason Currey, reveals the habits of artists, writers, inventors, philanthropists and statesmen. A common thread among most of them is that they all took some time out of their days to exercise, specifically to take a walk. Whether their walk was in the late morning, afternoon or in the evening, many of them credited their walks for helping them to work through problems while enjoying a little fresh air.
But like anything, you have to make exercise a habit in order to reap its valuable benefits. You can’t half-ass a half a mile run once a month and expect to become Einstein. But you also don’t have to become a slave to the gym either. Instead, take some time out of every day to go for a run, take a walk, cycle a few miles, host a dance party with your kids in the living room or whatever tickles your fancy. Don’t believe me? This article from Greatist discusses the results of a study where more than 750 participants in the US and UK were challenged to walk 10,000 steps every day. The results:
Participants who ended the program reporting 90 percent productivity or more increased an average of 41 percent productivity over the course of the program, and employees who hit the 10,000-step goal felt more productive than those who didn’t.
Get outside and take a walk (or whatever your exercise of choice) before work, at lunchtime or after work. Your brain and your ass will thank you…and you just might advance your career.