By Christina | September 2, 2009
When you think about exercising your brain, you think of mental activities that challenge the brain like sudoko or crossword puzzles. New studies show that physical exercise can be just as effective in helping enhance memory, focus, and decision making skills. There are specific ways to tailor your workouts to get your brain synapses firing and engaged.
One recommendation is to perform some exercises with your eyes closed. This may sound ridiculous and even dangerous, but there are times closing your eyes is doable. For example, certain resistance exercises like bicep curls, tricep kick-backs, or push-ups can be done safely with your eyes closed. Spinning and some yoga postures can also involve closed eyes with no added danger. Closing your eyes forces your brain to engage circuits that are not regularly used in order to complete the exercises. The absence of visual cues makes your body work harder to perform each exercise successfully. Your brain has to rely on other senses to enable you to coordinate your movements.
Another way to exercise your brain while exercising your body is to perform various exercises while tossing a ball. The hand/eye coordination required to catch a ball requires your brain to focus. Try doing sit-ups with a medicine ball. Have a partner stand in front of you or to your side (if you want to work obliques). Every time you do a sit-up, throw the ball to your partner and catch it on the way back down to the floor. You can also so squats with a medicine ball. Perform a squat like you normally would. Toss the medicine ball in the air when you stand and catch the ball as you lower into a squat. Adding a dimension like a ball toss to your exercises makes your workout more challenging and improves your ability to focus at the same time.
It is also important to incorporate speed work into your workouts. A 2007 study showed that exercisers could memorize words 20% faster than their non-sprinting counterparts. Intense bursts of cardiovascular exercise increase the blood flow to the part of the brain that is responsible for memory.
It is a no-brainer that exercise is good for your body. The fact that exercise is also good for your brain is an extra bonus.