Before you stop and say, “Yeah, yeah, I know exercise is good…what’s new?” I want you to know that this is NOT a rant about the 101 ways exercise can support your physical health. By now, you know all of that, and have made your decision about whether your physical health is worth the time and effort needed to keep your body in top form. No, this article is about something much more important: your MIND.
Your Mind is YOU
Who you are, how you think, what you feel, and how you interact with the world all comes from your mind. We have all had those days where we feel great, are confident, and are ready to take on the world. We have also had days where we think the sky is falling. And often, these feelings change one day to the next! We all know that our perspective can change quickly and that we sometimes do not “feel” like ourselves. But have you ever stopped to think WHY things can change so quickly? The reason is that your mind is just a representation of your brain health. If your brain is functioning at its best, then your thoughts, feelings, attitude, and mood all are better. If it is struggling, then YOU struggle. And your brain can change quickly. Everything you do has an impact on your brain and all too often, you are not taking good care of the very thing that can control your life. The real kicker…a bad mood is just the tip of the iceberg. If you neglect your brain health for too long, then your life truly will be in jeopardy. Not in the sense that you may think, however. Yes, brain issues can lead to death eventually, but even worse than death is the loss of the mind.
The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Lose
This is the greatest tragedy in life: to be physically alive, but to have a dysfunctional mind. Think about someone who has early onset Alzheimer’s or who has become chronically depressed. This person is still alive, but are they really the same “person?" It’s painful to think about, isn’t it? But things do not have to be this way. And whether we are talking about the extremes of Alzheimer’s or depression, or we are just talking about memory, quick wit, or anxiety, brain health matters.
The Brain Workout
I believe that the fitness industry has done a terrible disservice to the world by focusing on exercise as a weight loss tool. Can exercise burn fat? Yes. But the focus for the last 30+ years has been on exercise's ability to burn calories, which has NOTHING (let me repeat…NOTHING) to do with you losing weight. Calories are a poor science and do very little to help in healthy weight control. You will lose weight, however, when you remove stress from your life. This means eating foods that promote health, sleeping enough, and exercising in a way that promotes your brain health. Today, let’s just focus on the exercise part. To exercise in a way that enhances the brain, you have to start thinking differently what about exercise is and why you should do it. The goal of exercise should be to challenge your brain and your muscles. This means that you need to do things that meet certain criteria:
1) They are challenging. What you do needs to take your complete concentration. If you are watching TV or talking with a friend in the middle of your workout, you might as well go home.
2) Strength training 2x per week. Strength training releases a bunch of unique hormones that promote brain function (and fat loss).
3) High-Intensity Cardio training 2x per week. This is not your tradition 5 mile jog! We are talking about going all out for short bursts of time and recovering. Think about how most sports function. There's a short burst of action and then you stop or slow down (basketball, tennis, soccer, football, etc.).
4) Get outside as much as possible. You don’t have to “exercise” outside necessarily, but you need to spend at least 30 minutes a day outside, getting some sun, and, ideally, being around some trees or by a beach. The human brain responds amazingly well to nature and without it we really do suffer.
5) You have some fun doing it. Movement should not be a job, it’s meant to be play time! Yes, there may be things that you “need” to do that are not your favorite, but make sure that you also mix in some fun activities that get you moving.
If you follow these 5 steps, you will start seeing that your attitude, mood, and mental power will all start to improve. Yes, your body will change too, but realize this: your body is a representation of your mind. When your mind is healthy, your body will be too. So, I encourage you to rethink how you see exercise, and start using it as your daily brain food. If you are unsure at all about what a good brain workout should look like, I would also encourage you to consider whether this is something that you would like help with. The whole team here at Mint Condition Fitness is committed to helping you create a workout plan that will promote both your physical and mental health.
So, if you are out of shape, tired, or frustrated with your level of fitness, commit to yourself and your goals today and give us a call at (408) 370-1739.