Lately, I have been reading a lot about healthy ageing. As I get older, I want to be fit mentally and physically with a good dose of spiritual growth too. So I’ve been researching ways to supercharge the brain.
I started surf ski paddling a couple of years ago. I cannot tell you how much this has helped me physically. We all know exercise is good for our physical health, but did you know it’s also good for your brain? The latest neurological research has shown that there is a so-called ‘magic protein’ called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) that has the power to supercharge your brain and improve your memory. And it is stimulated by cardiovascular exercise!
BDNF can rewire and build new neural pathways in the brain, especially in the crucial areas that control memory (the hippocampus) and analysis, thinking, and decision-making (the frontal lobes). Your frontal lobes are where most of the intellectual activity of the brain takes place, from processing the data that’s coming in, to problem-solving and making ethical decisions. And you can keep these critical parts of your brain bathed in BDNF by merely increasing the amount of exercise in your daily routine.
Physical activity is good for us mentally too. When paddling I have to focus hard so as not to fall into the bumpy waves and I have to concentrate on learning the technical side of the sport. Dancing is also good for the body and brain, thinking of the next steps, developing rhythm, keeping in time with the music or group and all the while releasing positive endorphins.
Being out on the water fills me spiritually. I am in awe of Mother Nature and the beauty that surrounds me, especially when dolphins or whales make an appearance (and yes, they really do!) I am humbled by the vastness of the ocean and respectful of weather conditions that can change in an instant. I know I’m never totally in control and there is joy in being able to let go.
If you find it hard to commit to regular exercise, here are four ways you can make it easier and supercharge your brain at the same time.
- Make it Fun
The key to maintaining an exercise regime is to choose an activity you enjoy. Not everyone likes going to the gym, but there are many other ways to increase your heart rate and get the BDNF pumping. Check out Chocolate Fitness in Manly. Belinda who runs it offers kayaking, outdoor boot camps, walks, community connection and chocolate nights!
Dancing, swimming, hiking in nature and bike riding will all get your heart rate up, and you’ll enjoy doing it. Even brisk walking will help. As a bonus, exercise will boost your endorphins too, making you naturally happier and more relaxed.
- Schedule Your Exercise
It’s easier to stick to a regular exercise plan if you schedule time in your diary. Set aside time and increase your sessions until you’re exercising for thirty minutes, four or five times a week. Like any other habit, once you make it a priority, it will become just another part of your regular routine.
I paddle 3 times a week and rarely miss. My body, mind and soul crave it now!
- Make it Musical
Research has shown that music can increase motivation and happiness. Exercise will be much more fun if you’re bopping away to your favourite tunes. Even housework can become a brain-boosting dance routine when you’re vacuuming along to music that makes you smile. Turn up the volume and start cleaning to the beat!
- Do it With Friends
I started paddling on my own and bonded with the group I met that first day. We learned together, laughed together and have formed friendships that will last a lifetime. Belonging to a community is so important for our mental and physical wellness.
Create a playlist of your favourite songs, and you will find that exercise is pleasurable and much easier to stick to when there’s upbeat music to encourage you!
5 Remember who you are doing it for!
It’s your workout. Your body. Your time. Your growth. Your strength. Your future.
What’s your favourite type of exercise? I’d love to know. Or do you struggle to get your body moving? What’s holding you back? Time, motivation or something else? Share with me and let’s see if I can help you with that.
If you want to read more about Mental Health, here are some of my blogs: